Kathy Griffin's ingenious trolling of Elon Musk and his Chief Twit verification policy

Musk banned Griffin for using his name on Twitter, but she found a fun way to return to continue protesting him

By Joy Saha

Staff Writer

Published November 7, 2022 4:54PM (EST)

Elon Musk and Kathy Griffin (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images)
Elon Musk and Kathy Griffin (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images)

In the Kathy Griffin vs. Elon Musk Twitter battle, the second round goes to the outspoken comedian.

It all began over the weekend when several celebrities, including Griffin, changed their Twitter display names to "Elon Musk" as a way to push back at the decision by the self-declared "Chief Twit" to offer up the verified blue check mark to anyone who'd pay $8 a month for the privilege. Under the new display names (Twitter handles cannot be changed to maintain uniqueness), the various protesters would then tweet out messages that were decidedly un-Musk-like.

On Sunday night, Griffin's main Twitter account was suspended after she encouraged people to vote for Democrats under the Musk name.

"After much spirited discussion with the females in my life, I've decided that voting blue for their choice is only right. (They're also sexy females, btw.) #VoteBlueToProtectWomen!" Griffin tweeted. Her profile picture also resembled Musk's own Twitter profile photo.

Shortly after Griffin's ban, Musk threatened users with his newfound policy, posting, "Going forward, any Twitter handles engaging in impersonation without clearly specifying 'parody' will be permanently suspended. Previously, we issued a warning before suspension, but now that we are rolling out widespread verification, there will be no warning. This will be clearly identified as a condition for signing up to Twitter Blue. Any name change at all will cause temporary loss of verified checkmark."

It's a common practice to change Twitter display names – not handles – for various reasons, ranging from holiday seasonality (e.g. October's "spooky name" puns), status updates, newsy commentary or in this case, parody. For the most part, parody accounts don't usually indicate that they are parodies since it's generally clear from the different Twitter handles, historical tweets on the timeline and humorous content.

Griffin's revenge

Despite the ban, Griffin found a way to return to Twitter via her late mother's account to continue trolling Musk.

Using the handle @TipItMaggieG — which once belonged to Griffin's mother and eventual co-star Maggie Griffin — the comedian resumed her antics by tweeting that she had come "back from the grave" so Musk could #FreeKathy. The hashtag began trending shortly after Griffin's ban and was repeatedly used by Griffin in her recent replies to a string of Musk's tweets.

The Twitter squabble soon reached an explosive climax when Musk claimed that Griffin had actually been "suspended for impersonating a comedian," to which she replied, "I mean . . . you stole that joke, you asshole. People have been posting that joke for hours, you hack. Look, please do a better job running this company. It used to mean something. This is KG btw."

Griffin didn't stop there. She then pretended to be the ghost of her mother and called Musk "a douchebag." 

"Elon, this is Maggie contacting you from the spirit world tell u . . . you're a douchebag," Griffin tweeted. "This is not parody. This is the actual ghost of Kathy Griffin's boxed wine loving mother saying I'm gonna get tipsy & throw my bingo cards at you! NOT A PARODY."

"To the moon, a**hole. #FreeKathy," she added.

Griffin's latest reply to Musk mocked a series of tweets in which Musk urged "independent-minded voters" to vote for a Republican Congress. "Who's house was it that you parked outside for days (or was it weeks after she dumped you???)," Griffin teased. "Elon, cmon. Don't ya know I'm one of those dames who's has been around so long I've heard from everybodyyyyy??? You were in diapers in your car?? Was it a Tesla?? Gross."

Naturally, the profile now sports Musk's display name and profile picture, although the cover image and bio still remain Maggie Griffin's.

Other celebs vs. Musk

In addition to Griffin, Musk banned comedian Sarah Silverman for tweeting, "I am a freedom of speech absolutist and I eat doody for breakfast every day" after she changed her display name as well. The Tesla and SpaceX CEO also banned Ethan Klein, a popular comedic creator, for doing the same. Klein reportedly tweeted in Musk's name, "Ghislaine Maxwell is an extremely decent woman who I had the pleasure of meeting several years ago. It's a shame how she's been demonized and ran over by the press." He later added, "Parody account. It's in my info and header."

Additional tweeters paying "tribute" to Musk who were subsequently banned include writer and former pro football player Chris Kluwe, journalist Christopher Hooks and "Mad Men" actor Rich Sommer.

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The only spoofer who hasn't faced any consequences is Valerie Bertinelli, who changed her name to Musk's to point out the hypocrisy of his actions banning parody accounts versus his new verification plan that would not actually verify the identity of anyone.

"The blue checkmark simply meant your identity was verified. Scammers would have a harder time impersonating you," Bertinelli tweeted on Saturday, "That no longer applies. Good luck out there!"

Using Musk's name, Bertinelli tweeted various hashtags like #VoteBlueToProtectYourRights and retweeted articles about the midterm elections. Her online stunt finally came to an end on Sunday.

"Okey-dokey I've had my fun and I think I made my point. I'm just not a 'trending' kind of gal," she wrote. "Never have been, never want to be. Have a safe Sunday everyone! xo"

In response to Musk's recent acquisition, many celebrities have announced their leave from Twitter. Producer Shonda Rhimes tweeted, "Not hanging around for whatever Elon has planned. Bye." Similarly, "Girls5eva" star Sara Bareilles announced, "Welp. It's been fun Twitter. I'm out. See you on other platforms, peeps."

By Joy Saha

Joy Saha is a staff writer at Salon, covering Culture and Food. She holds a BA in journalism from the University of Maryland, College Park.


Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Aggregate Elon Musk Freedom Of Speech Kathy Griffin Twitter