Just days before Samantha Bee unleashed a torrent of outrage by calling Ivanka Trump a “feckless cunt” on her show Full Frontal, she was telling a group of Emmy voters how “free” she felt to express her opinions on TBS.
According to a new, anonymously sourced report from The Hollywood Reporter, TBS will exert more oversight on Bee’s show moving forward in an attempt to “prevent another incident that could potentially scare advertisers and draw condemnation from both sides of the political aisle.” The network declined to comment on the record about the changes to The Daily Beast.
This is a big change for the show, as Bee herself laid out at the For Your Consideration event in Beverly Hills less than two weeks ago. Asked by an audience member if she “ever runs into problems” with the network in terms of what she is allowed to talk about on the show, Bee replied, “Not to kiss TBS’ ass too much, but actually they are so free about the content of the show.”
“You could never find a better match,” she continued. “They have been incredibly generous, just keeping themselves separate and letting us create the show. I just can’t imagine a more free, creative landscape. They are amazing with the show, there is no other way to say it.”
“Go, TBS!” the night’s moderator, Molly Ringwald, added to applause from the crowd. How things have changed since then.
After White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders demanded that TBS cancel Bee’s show—a blatant challenge to free speech in and of itself—Bee issued a rare apology for what she called the “inexcusable” comment. TBS quickly followed with an apology of its own, acknowledging culpability given the fact that Bee’s words were part of a scripted, taped piece, not an off-the-cuff remark nor an Ambien-induced tweet.
And yet, even after those apologies, companies like State Farm and Autotrader.com announced that they would no longer be advertising on the show. TBS’ more aggressive involvement in the content of the show is clearly meant to send a message to advertisers that they do not need to fear any more lines being crossed, as Bee put it.
How will this affect the show her loyal fans have come to know and love? Bee certainly doesn’t need the “c-word” to be funny or make her desired political arguments. But the freedom she was afforded until now has given Full Frontal an air of unpredictably and occasional menace that has worked in its favor.
During a Q&A at Comedy Central’s Clusterfest this past weekend, Bee’s old boss Jon Stewart warned President Trump’s critics against playing into the administration’s “we’re the real victims game” when it comes to issues of decency and respect.
“Don’t get caught in a trap of thinking you can live up to a code of integrity that will be enough for the propagandist right,” he said. “There isn’t. And so, create your own moral code to live by, but don’t be fooled into trying to make concessions that you think will mollify them.”
TBS should think carefully about those words the next time they try to tell Samantha Bee what she can or cannot say on television.