It was a whirlwind of a day for Samantha Bee, who spent much of Thursday dealing with the fallout from Wednesday night’s episode of her TBS talk show “Full Frontal.” But that evening, she was accepting a Television Academy Honors award.
“You know, the thing is our show is steeped in passion,” Bee told the audience at the event, held at Neuehouse in Hollywood. “Every week I strive to show the world as I see it, unfiltered. Sometimes I 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.”
In this case, Bee was referring to an apology she issued earlier in the day to Ivanka Trump, whom she called a “feckless c-nt.” But lost in the right-wing outrage — and calls from the White House for TBS to cancel “Full Frontal” — was the context behind Bee’s on-air tirade.
“Stories about 1,500 missing unaccompanied migrant children flooded the news cycle over the weekend,” Bee told the crowd. “So last night we aired a segment on the atrocious treatment of migrant children by this administration and past administrations. Sometimes even the ones who look best in swim trunks do bad jobs with things. 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,” she added. “If we are OK with that then really, who are we?”
Bee continued by standing by the mission of her show: “I can tell you, as long as we have breath in our bodies and 21 minutes of airtime once a week, repeats on Saturdays, that we as a show will never stop shouting [about] the inhumanities of this world from the rooftops and striving to make it a better place. But in a comedy way.”
“Full Frontal” was honored for its coverage of the Time’s Up and #MeToo movements, noting that for Women’s History Month, the show took on the lack of information about women’s health in the medical community.
“Our staff poured everything we have into these #MeToo pieces,” Bee said while accepting the award. “They wrote jokes through tears and panic attacks, they pushed each other to be honest and more fearless. I can only imagine what it takes to say these powerful famous, admired men abused me and I won’t be silent. No matter the consequences, Me Too. Leaders of the #MeToo movement are changing the world. And we are honored to stand with you and support you as best we can. There is power in saying what you feel without apology… OK, and sometimes you also have to apologize.”
Bee got plenty of laughter and applause for that line, as well as when she opened by declaring, “it actually means so much to accept this with everyone here behind me, these incredible writers and producers.”
Later, Bee also thanked her bosses at Turner, noting that “you always have our back and we appreciate that so deeply.”
The Television Academy Honors, now in its 11th year, spotlights programming “that creatively, accurately and responsibly addresses some of society’s most pressing concerns — programming that enlightens, educates, and motivates positive change.” Besides “Full Frontal with Samantha Bee,” other shows honored this year included Disney Channel’s “Andi Mack,” Netflix’s “Daughters of Destiny: The Journey of Shanti Bhavan,” Logo’s “Forbidden: Undocumented & Queer in Rural America,” National Geographic’s “LA 92,” Netflix’s “One Day at a Time,” and Netflix’s “13 Reasons Why.”
Because of today’s “Full Frontal” controversy, press was uninvited to the event late in the day. (A source provided IndieWire with the Bee acceptance speech.) Bee and her “Full Frontal” team also opted not to walk the red carpet.
The controversy came after Bee, on “Full Frontal,” pointed out that the First Daughter is posting photos herself and her son at the same time that immigrant children are being separated from their parents, and called the White House employee a “feckless c-nt.”
White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders responded in a statement, “The language used by Samantha Bee last night is vile and vicious. The collective silence by the left and its media allies is appalling. Her disgusting comments and show are not fit for broadcast, and executives at Time Warner and TBS must demonstrate that such explicit profanity about female members of this administration will not be condoned on its network.”
TBS removed the clip in question from YouTube, and Bee issued an apology: “I would like to sincerely apologize to Ivanka Trump and to my viewers for using an expletive on my show to describe her last night. It was inappropriate and inexcusable. I crossed a line, and I deeply regret it.”
Some right-wing voices attempted to compare Bee’s remark to Roseanne Barr’s racist statement on Twitter earlier this week — despite the apples-and-oranges context.