Samantha Bee (AP/Evan Agostini)

Samantha Bee has few regrets following Ivanka Trump scandal: "It was incredibly overblown"

In a new interview, Bee addresses the "feckless c**t" controversy that almost swallowed her: "I was very surprised"


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Rachel Leah
August 24, 2018 5:45PM (UTC)

"Full Frontal with Samantha Bee" is officially on hiatus until September, as the TBS show literally destroyed its set during its last episode, (luckily it's getting a brand new one) while Bee prepares for the launch of an official "Full Frontal" app, "This is Not a Game: The Game," all about incentivizing people to participate in the midterm elections. But in many ways, it's been a turbulent year for the late-night host, and for women in late-night, period.

Bee faced intense backlash after calling Ivanka Trump, a "feckless c**t" on her show, in reference to Ivanka's complicity in immigrant children being ripped from their parents at the border as part of the administration's zero-tolerance policy on illegal immigration. President Trump and White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders demanded Bee be fired and amidst the controversy, the plight of immigrant children housed in juvenile jails was relegated to the back burner.

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There were also reports after the controversy that TBS would be more involved in "Full Frontal" moving forward to quell future fallouts. Bee disputed this, saying: "They’ve stood behind the show from the very beginning, since the first episode, and they stand behind it now."

Even after "Full Frontal" scored seven Emmy nominations this year, the only woman nominee in the Emmy for Outstanding Variety Talk Series category, Bee remains one of the only women still standing in late-night at all, after Netflix canceled Michelle Wolf's "The Break" and BET canceled "The Rundown with Robin Thede."

In a new interview with the Daily Beast, Bee addressed the highs and lows of the past year.

As far as the new set, it's not so much about content changes as it is about aesthetic ones. "I love the show, I’m really happy with it," Bee said. "It’s not even really expanding the message of the show, I just think we’re ready for something bigger in that space. I think we’re ready to take up more space in the world and so why not have a set that reflects that?"

On Wolf's and Thede's canceled late-night shows, Bee said, "I find it very disheartening, actually. I’m really, really sad about it. Because those women are amazing, their shows were great. I do think that whichever network nabs them up next will be very lucky. I assume that other networks are fighting to rehire them."

In a way the trust, promo and advertising that TBS has granted Bee is rarely offered to women in the industry. Wolf had just 10 episodes air before Netflix slashed it and Thede, similarly, hosted just one season on BET. "You don’t build an audience overnight, you don’t build an audience in three months," Bee said. "You just don’t, you can’t, it takes a really long time. And you have to have a vision for the future in order to be able to do it properly and I think that that was lacking in both of those cases."

Though, Bee and "Full Frontal" survived the Ivanka debacle, "It wasn’t a great experience," she said. "It wasn’t an enjoyable experience. I will say that the network was incredibly supportive the entire time. It definitely unleashes a different kind of beast into your life when the president specifically tweets about you, so that was a bit new."

READ MORE: "Disenchantment" and the evolution of Matt Groenig's feminism

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Bee added that it really forced her to examine the show's reach in new light. "For a long time I hadn’t really considered that the show does have a bigger voice now, and a bigger platform," she said. And that platform is only increasing over time. So it was a reckoning on that account."

Bee continued:

It was a real learning experience. I was very surprised. I felt that it was incredibly overblown. Like beyond overblown. And I was very regretful that that moment really took away from what I was trying to say with the segment. And the segment really effectively disappeared, you can’t find it anymore. That’s really a shame, because the subject matter was really important to me. And we circled back to it multiple times after that, but it’s a story that hasn’t gone away yet. I felt like it did a disservice to the [separated] families. Not that we would expect to have a huge impact on them, but I felt that anything that took away from that story, which is so critical and an ongoing story that continues on to this moment, I felt terrible.

Bee did end up apologizing several times, but her on-air apology was specific to the women who felt offended by it, (she said directly she didn't care about the men who were offended) and she expressed regret especially to the immigrant children detained then and still, as her insult offered an out for Trump defenders to point fingers at Bee rather than the human rights crisis happening at the border.

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"The apology was not offered to the right," she explained. "It was not offered as a concession to their demands, at all. It was offered in a very specific manner and I don’t regret putting it out there. I think it was the right thing to do. There is literally nothing that I can do to please loud voices on the right and I don’t expect to try anytime soon. It really wasn’t for them. I don’t really care what they think of me. A lot of the loudest voices that came out to speak about me should be embarrassed by their own conduct these days. I could not give a single fuck what they think of me. And why should I?"

It's also a testament to the current comedic landscape. "You can’t make a comedy show that pleases everyone, nor should you ever try," Bee continued, echoing a point Jimmy Kimmel made earlier this week. "You cannot make a decent or good comedy product by assessing everyone’s opinions and going straight down the middle. You have to have a point of view these days."

A “Full Frontal” look at Hurricane Maria

What Samantha Bee found in Puerto Rico.


Rachel Leah

Rachel Leah is a culture writer for Salon. You can follow her on Twitter: @rachelkleah

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