Joan Rivers storms out of CNN interview after being called "mean"

For the comic, criticism is a one-way street

By Prachi Gupta

Published July 7, 2014 1:45PM (EDT)

   (<a href="">Helga Esteb</a> / <a href=""></a>)
(Helga Esteb /

While Joan Rivers has no problem hurling insults at celebrities and reporters, she has no tolerance for the criticism her comments beget. Rivers recently stormed out of an interview with CNN anchor Fredericka Whitfield, who described the comedian's brand of humor on E's "Fashion Police" as "very mean in some ways."

“It’s not mean, it’s not mean, it’s not mean. I tell the truth,” Rivers said on CNN's pre-taped interview, which aired Saturday. “I’m sure I say the same things that all the viewers say to their friends sitting next to them on the couch.”

Rivers, who is currently promoting her memoir, "Diary of a Mad Diva," broke ground for women in a male-dominated industry in the 1960s. These days, however, the 81-year-old writer and entertainer is better known for insulting young women with opinions that, because they come from her mouth, are somehow to be taken as lighthearted jokes. Jennifer Lawrence has criticized her show, saying, "they put values in all the things that are wrong and show that it’s okay to just point at people and call them ugly and call them fat and they call it fun.”

Rivers has a penchant for exposing "the truth" beyond fashion, too: She has called North West, Kim Kardashian and Kanye West's infant daughter, "ugly" and "desperately in need of a waxing," has trivialized the suffering of the women who were kidnapped, raped and locked in a basement by Cleveland man Ariel Castro for 10 years ("I'm still in the same stupid little room. I mean, those women in the basement in Cleveland had more space. I mean, it is just the worst") and over the weekend claimed that President Obama is gay because "you know Michelle [Obama] is a trans."

When asked if "there are boundaries, ever," Rivers said in the interview, "Life is very tough, and if you can make a joke to make something easier, and funny, do it." (Whose life is Rivers making easier, exactly, with these insensitive comments?)

Whitfield, focused on "the shock value" that keeps Rivers in the limelight, asked the comic and PETA activist to respond to criticism over her book cover, in which she appears in a fur coat.

“You know this whole interview is becoming a defensive interview,” Rivers shouted. “Are you wearing leather shoes? Shut up!”

“You know what, I’m going,” she continued. “I really am going because all you’ve done is negative. I’ve made people laugh for 50 years. I was put on earth to make people laugh and my book is funny. You are not the one to interview a person who does humor. Sorry!”

According to Whitfield, Rivers continued to "drop some unflattering four-letter words" off-camera. "I thought she was joking the whole time!" said Whitfield. Turns out that "she was serious."

Prachi Gupta

Prachi Gupta is an Assistant News Editor for Salon, focusing on pop culture. Follow her on Twitter at @prachigu or email her at

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