In an appearance yesterday on Ellen DeGeneres’ eponymous talk show, California Senator and presumed 2020 Democratic Presidential candidate Kamala Harris cracked a joke about killing President Donald Trump, eliciting laughter from both the host and the audience.
After Harris coyly refused to answer whether she was planning to run in 2020 (she’s too focused on “important” issues now, like passing an assault weapons ban, of course), DeGeneres pulled out some flashcards with questions to “vet” Harris for the presidency. Some of the questions were lighthearted (“Who was your first celebrity crush?”) but then this exchange, just before the 8 minute mark in the video below:
DeGeneres: If you had to be stuck in an elevator with either President Trump, Mike Pence, or Jeff Sessions, who would it be?
Harris: Does one of us have to come out alive?
Harris burst out laughing as DeGeneres applauded, the audience joining in to show their approval.
Now, I don’t actually believe Harris is serious about wanting to kill Trump — or Pence and Sessions, for that matter — but the situation does illustrate the glaring double standards at play.
There are no trending hashtags demanding a boycott of advertisers on DeGeneres’ show. She’s not going on any conveniently-timed hiatus. Neither Harris nor DeGeneres have been shamed into issuing an apology, or even a comment. They both shared video clips of the interview segment on Twitter with happy comments, and no indication that either thought anything controversial was said.
Just imagine, if you will, the reaction if that headline said, “Ted Cruz Jokes About Killing Obama.”
Do you think the reaction would have been different?
(Laura Ingraham was unavailable for comment.)
I don’t find joking about killing the President particularly funny, but I also don’t think that Harris poses any threat to him whatsoever.
So here’s a radical idea. Maybe the appropriate response to these situations is exactly what happened: a joke was viewed as a joke, and those who liked it laughed, and pretty much everyone moved on afterwards without fuss.
Updated to add: Yesterday, Guardian columnist Jessica Valenti wrote in support of Kevin Williamson’s termination from The Atlantic by blaming conservatives for “violent rhetoric” that has “real life consequences.”
Again, that’s quite the contrast from how Harris’ joke, which, remember, she brought up herself; it wasn’t the comedian who prompted the idea about killing Trump, Pence, or Sessions. Heaven forbid someone attempts some sort of attack against one of those three. We won’t expect Valenti to lament Harris’ “violent rhetoric” for inspiring such actions.
Follow Sarah Rumpf on Twitter: @rumpfshaker.