Samantha Bee's Feckless Apology Deserves a 'C'

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As a comedy writer and a liberal, I feel badly that I am not feeling all warm and fuzzy after Samantha’s Bee on-air apology for calling Ivanka Trump a “feckless cunt.” Devoid of humility, her mea culpa came across as superficial and perfunctory. But what bothered me even more was the decidedly mixed message that she expressed. 

In one breath, Samantha Bee acknowledged that she has used the word “cunt” on her show many times, “hoping to reclaim it.” However, this time she used it “as an insult.”  This logic suggests that she thinks she erred not in using the word, but in using it in the manner in which she did. 

However, in the next breath she said, “The problem is that many women have heard that word at the worst moments of their lives. A lot of them don’t want that word reclaimed. They want it gone. And I don’t blame them.”

That is exactly how many African Americans feel about the word “nigger.” Yet, a significant segment of the black community has reclaimed the offending word and made it their own. 

So, does Samantha Bee still want to reclaim the word “cunt,” or does she now think that was a bad idea? We don't know, because she didn’t bother to address the very issue that she raised. 

Note to Samantha Bee: Please figure this out for yourself. If you want to reclaim the word “cunt,” which is something I would totally support (which may not matter to you since I’m a man), you will never succeed at that by using the word as a slur to insult women. If you are serious about reclaiming the word, then you will have to use it fearlessly and without apology, just as actress Sally Field did recently when she tweeted this: 

I like Samantha Bee a lot, but she is flat wrong to call Ivanka a cunt. Cunts are powerful, beautiful, nurturing and honest.   

Whether Samantha Bee has it in her to use the word “cunt” publicly, as Sally Field did, remains to be seen, but I sincerely hope that she does, lest she be seen by some as, well, feckless.

And that brings me to my next problem with Samantha Bee’s apology: Pulling a page out of the Trumpian playbook, she blamed the media for their response to what she said: 

“I should’ve known that a potty mouth insult would be inherently more interesting to them (the press) than juvenile immigration policy.” 

Right, so it’s the media’s fault for ignoring Samantha Bee’s indefensible (by her own admission) use of the word “cunt” and not engaging her in an in-depth discussion on American immigration policy. She did not have the humility to say, “I messed up totally and gave the media good reason to focus on my poor choice of words rather than the important issue that I so want to discuss.”  

I agree with Jon Stewart, who remains the most influential and astute political comedian of his generation, that conservative outrage over Samantha Bee is “a game” that should not be taken seriously. “They don’t give a shit about the word ‘cunt.’ Trump says that instead of ‘please,’ I’m guessing,” he recently said.  As usual, John Stewart is spot on, however just as John Oliver and Bill Maher did on their respective shows, he gave his friend Samantha Bee a comedy mulligan. 

Sorry, but with all due respect, I do not.