The TBS late night host Samantha Bee has come under intense scrutiny after using a vulgar expletive to describe Ivanka Trump during her show on Wednesday night.
Ms. Bee dedicated nearly seven minutes of “Full Frontal With Samantha Bee” to the issue of migrant children before invoking Ms. Trump’s name. As the host segued to the president’s daughter, an image of Ms. Trump holding her child that she posted on social media earlier in the week appeared on a screen in the background.
In the segment, Ms. Bee referred to Ms. Trump’s posting of the photo of herself and her child as “oblivious,” adding, “Let me just say, one mother to another, do something about your dad’s immigration practices.” She then used an obscenity to describe the first daughter and presidential adviser, modifying it with the word “feckless.”
With rumblings of an advertising boycott on Thursday, as commentators on the left and right debated the slur, Ms. Bee offered an apology, saying in a statement, “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.”
In the segment, Ms. Bee addressed Ms. Trump directly, saying, “He listens to you.” She advised Ms. Trump to “put on something tight and low-cut” and to tell her father to “stop it.” She then made use of another obscenity to punctuate her point.
When Ms. Bee made her comment, the show’s studio audience gasped, before breaking into cheers. Her remarks appeared to have been scripted. When the segment was broadcast, the offending word was bleeped out, but was still audible on the clip that was posted online. TBS removed the video from its site on Thursday afternoon.
Ms. Bee made her comments two days after ABC canceled “Roseanne” because the show’s star, Roseanne Barr, had posted a racist tweet about Valerie Jarrett, a former senior adviser to President Barack Obama. Ms. Barr initially defended herself by saying her comment was a joke.
Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, condemned Ms. Bee’s remarks on Thursday. “The language used by Samantha Bee last night is vile and vicious,” she said. “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.”
Ms. Bee’s show is aired on TBS, which is part of the Time Warner family. Pending governmental approval, AT&T may soon acquire the company in an $85.4 billion deal. The deal is now in litigation, with a court decision expected June 12.
Ms. Bee’s remarks quickly became a flash point on where media companies should draw the line, especially where comedians are concerned, and whether it is fair to assume an equivalency between a racist remark and a vulgar epithet. Several prominent conservatives said that a lack of disciplinary action for Ms. Bee would reveal a double standard in the industry.
In a statement, TBS said Ms. Bee had taken the right action by apologizing for the “vile and inappropriate language” she had used. “Those words should not have been aired,” the network said. “It was our mistake too, and we regret it.”
Ari Fleischer, who was the White House press secretary under President George W. Bush, wrote on Twitter, “There’s no uprising against Bee. Why? Because she is liberal.”
NBC’s Megyn Kelly, who has been a target of Ms. Bee’s barbs, also derided the remark on Twitter “This is disgusting,” she wrote. “How is this acceptable? And how are we expected to take any of these publications seriously if they gleefully repost something like this at the same time they (rightfully) condemn @therealroseanne?”
Chelsea Clinton also criticized the late night host, saying on Twitter, “It’s grossly inappropriate and just flat-out wrong to describe or talk about @IvankaTrump or any woman that way.”
Ms. Bee, a 48-year-old Canadian-American comic and commentator who spent 12 years on “The Daily Show,” has made herself into a force of resistance against the White House during the run of her new show, which went on the air in 2016. Last April, she hosted an alternative to the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner, drawing several comedians and celebrities who had publicly shunned Mr. Trump. This year, Ms. Bee defended the dinner’s headlining comedian, Michelle Wolf, after she encountered backlash for lampooning Ms. Sanders during a monologue.
“Feminism doesn’t mean you can never make jokes about another woman ever,” Ms. Bee said of Ms. Wolf’s routine during an episode of her show earlier this month.
Ms. Bee, the only woman who hosts a late night talk show, has been a central component of TBS’s efforts to rebuild its original programming lineup.
Last year, her show was nominated for an Emmy in the category of best variety talk show, and TBS has been enthusiastic about putting her in front of would-be Emmy voters once again. Last week, TBS hosted an event for Ms. Bee in Beverly Hills, Calif., in an effort to increase her chance of receiving nominations, which will be announced in July.
On Thursday night, Ms. Bee was scheduled to appear at an event in Hollywood where the Television Academy, the organization in charge of the Emmy Awards, would honor several shows, including “Full Frontal With Samantha Bee,” for using the “dynamic power of television to inspire social change.”
Katie Rogers contributed reporting.