Kathy Griffin is a somewhat inconsistently effective comedian, but she can be quite an effective demonstration of the political work artists can do that conventional operatives can’t. I think I’d have to see tape of this incident before I trust that it happened exactly the way Griffin says it went down, but the fact that she turned questions of heredity around on Michele Bachmann is funny and smart in and of itself. This is what Griffin says happens when she ran into Bachmann on an elevator and one of Bachmann’s aides started recording the encounter with a flip cam:
“I was just wondering, were you born a bigot or did you grow into it?” Are you ready for the answer? “Well that’s a good question I’m going to have to think about that”…So then, I lost it. I said “let me rephrase.” I said “do you feel you were born a bigot or do you think that its more environmental?” She goes “I’m going to have to get back to you on that one.”
Think kind of politicized comedy can be unfairly manipulative, and not that effective. I’m of the camp that believes that what Borat exposed more than anything else was the essential decency of a lot of Americans when faced with someone who’s behaving bizarrely, even if that means that they go along with something offensive. But asking someone if they were born a bigot is not the kind of thing that a debate moderator would ask, and it’s not something that a conventional political operative would ask because the potential for a high dungeon-inflected “No!” and looking like a jerk is pretty high. Griffin, though, can take the risk, walk away from it if it pays no dividends, and give everyone else a nice slice of footage if her audacity pays off.