I could frame this as an animal rights post, but it’s not. It’s a post about a case of indecency — not of human cruelty but of human callousness and stupidity. It’s trivial in the midst of this political season, I admit, but it was so offensive to me that I want to go on the record. I’m talking, of course, about Kathie Lee Gifford dropping a puppy on its head on live TV, and then blaming the puppy.
Many have talked about how the Today Show has deteriorated in recent years, and the last hour with Kathie Lee Gifford and Hoda Kotb is a national joke. Gifford should be removed from the air before she does something even worse. Last Thursday, during a lightweight segment about puppy adoption, Kathy Lee went off script and insisted she be handed one of the puppies that was there as a prop. Within seconds she dropped the puppy on its head, its neck bending at a right angle sideways as it hit the floor. It’s very possible the puppy is OK; puppies are pretty resilient. But it’s also more than possible it was hurt, and I don’t trust NBC or the segment guest from North Shore Animal League (who wouldn’t want to burn bridges) to tell the truth on that.
Whether the puppy is OK or not, Gifford is an embarassment, and has been for a long time. The internet is full of clips of her drunken on-air mistakes, and she’s long been an SNL skit as well. Kathy Lee was in many ways a forerunner of today’s pseudo-reality stars. Her fame came from sharing, on Live with Regis & Kathie Lee, about the mundane details of day-to-day life with her celebrity husband Frank Gifford and their two children. (And does anyone else remember the big scandal back in ’96 around her clothing line being made in Honduran sweatshops?) But the on-air drunkenness on her new show has taken things to another level.
The thing that really got me really mad, though, was the follow-up segment on Friday, where Matt Lauer in damage control mode made a joke of the entire thing, with Kathy Lee claiming the puppy is OK, then proceeding to say, a) that she’s a wreck (poor victim), and b) that it was the puppy’s fault. Seriously. She blamed the puppy. Watch the segment and see if you can believe it. She said that it smelled, and suggested it was maybe a bit off. Kathie Lee Gifford dropped a puppy on its head from 4 feet in the air, and is saying it was the puppy’s fault. Everyone on the air Friday morning seemed to go along with this except Al Roker who, while still making a joke of it, at least aimed his humor rather sharply at Gifford. They also showed the loop of her dropping the puppy five times, for comedy value. I’m not sure who can watch the clip and think it’s funny. I find it upsetting.
Animal rights is an issue many of my friends are passionate about. One or two have devoted their careers to it. It’s not a focus of mine, though I avoid the output of factory farms and applaud the shutting down of puppy mills and animal testing. I’m sure some readers will think I’m being ridiculous making an issue of this, but I can’t abide callous disregard for the suffering of other creatures. And I can’t abide people who blame a victim rather than take responsibility for the harm they’ve done. Kathy Lee Gifford’s attitude is summed up in her first line from the segment Friday morning: “The puppy’s OK but I’m a wreck.” Yes, Kathie Lee, it’s all about you. Not the little helpless creature you might have killed. It’s about you.