Samantha Bee vs. Roseanne Barr: How we debate what is ‘wrong’ to say


Samantha Bee is feeling the heat for her comments on Ivanka Trump. Media and the public debate if she should face the same heat as Roseanne Barr for her recent racist remarks.

Samantha Bee is being both attacked and applauded for a recent segment on her show Full Frontal where she called Ivanka Trump the c-word.

Let’s rewind a bit first. On Wednesday evening, Bee started off her show discussing America’s immigration policy, specifically recent outrage over the federal government admitting it could not verify the status of nearly 1,500 immigrant children. She continued by digging into the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy, which separates these children from their parents if they do not have documentation when they arrive at the border.

Bee, a comedian, often delivers standup that’s boundary-pushing and to some, offensive, all while making strong points about trending political topics. Most if not all of Bee’s comments though are made in defense of those harmed by the President’s policies.

On this particular segment, Bee started with her usual quips saying:

"Tearing children away from their parents is so evil, it’s the inciting incident in almost every movie we’ve ever cared about."

Then things escalated quickly. Bee called out a recent tweet by Ivanka Trump saying:

"You know, Ivanka, that’s a beautiful photo of you and your child, but let me just say, one mother to another, do something about your dad’s immigration practices, you feckless c–t!"

Bee apologized for her remark with the tweet below.

Full Frontal‘s home network TBS also apologized and the segment’s video has been removed from all social media platforms.

What has come of Bee’s comment is a searingly hot debate over whether she is facing appropriate criticism. We’ve barely just finished the media rounds on Roseanne Barr over her recent racist tweet about former Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett.

For those defending Bee, they argue she does not lash out with anti-Semitic remarks and conspiracy-theory tangents, as Barr has done for years. Supporters also note there was a very serious point surrounding the one word that arguably ruined it; Ivanka Trump, the President’s daughter and senior advisor, could influence her father to end cruel immigration policies.

Those against Bee think she sank down to the level of social media trolls. There’s also the thought that if this word had come from the mouth of, say, a conservative host/actor/politician, it would reflect their misogyny and sexism, and worse. President Trump himself has called for Bee to be fired. (That tweet alone has sparked its own double-standard debate).

Ultimately, Bee’s remark about Ivanka was crass and wrong. When it comes to Barr, her tweet was racist and wrong.

While both are wrong, racism trumps crudeness. (Important to note this does not excuse Bee. Using crass remarks can weaken any point you’re trying to make, and hurts civil discourse.)

What comes next is a little blurry. For now, it is unclear if Full Frontal will be canceled entirely or if Bee will face any repercussions for what she said. The White House has called for the show to be canceled, and TBS has yet to respond.

As for Bee herself, she was open to discussing the controversy on Thursday night, while accepting a Television Academy Honors award.

Bee said that while her show is “steeped in passion” and aims to “show the world as I see it, unfiltered,” she admitted she “should probably have a filter. I accept that. I take it seriously when I get it right, and I do take responsibility when I get it wrong.”

She continued:

"Our piece attracted controversy of the worst kind. We spent the day wrestling with the repercussions of one bad word, when we all should have spent the day incensed that as a nation we are wrenching children from their parents and treating people legally seeking asylum as criminals. If we are OK with that then really, who are we?"

Bee added that she and her team will continue to raise awareness about “the inhumanities of this world from the rooftops and striving to make it a better place. But in a comedy way.”

“There is power in saying what you feel without apology,” Bee added “OK, and sometimes you also have to apologize.”