The comedy icon spoke with ET at the premiere of the new Showtime comedy I'm Dying Up Here, where he addressed the controversy surrounding Kathy Griffin's recent photo shoot in which she held a facsimile of President Donald Trump's severed head.
The photo and video were first posted Tuesday morning by TMZ; Griffin apologized Tuesday evening but by then the image had already been widely shared and condemned. "Kathy Griffin should be ashamed of herself", he said in a tweet on Wednesday morning.
"I sincerely apologize. I'm a comic, I cross the line". I move the line, then I cross it. The image is too disturbing; I understand how it offends people. The image is too disturbing. "It wasn't amusing. I get it".
Griffin had earlier posted behind the scenes footage from the shoot with photographer Tyler Shields on her Twitter account, writing: "I caption this 'there was blood coming out of his eyes, blood coming out of his. wherever". I beg for your forgivness.
"I went too far", she says in her contrite follow-up video. I've made a lot of mistakes in career. "I had a dream the other night I was playing golf with Donald Trump", he recalled.
"My children, especially my 11 year old son, Barron, are having a hard time with this".
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Franken cited Griffin's apology in explaining his decision.
"Kathy's a friend and she's a terrific comedian, but this had no business being in our public discourse", Franken said. "And I talked to her". She has apologized - a real, fulsome apology.
"Am I saying that anyone should actually be killed?"
Griffin, who had regularly participated in CNN's annual New Year's Eve coverage, was universally criticized for the grotesque image.
Late Tuesday, the network had called Griffin's photos "disgusting and offensive", according to a statement from a CNN spokesperson.
The reaction to Griffin and Shields' photos may have gained the attention of the Secret Service, as the agency tweeted late Tuesday that "threats made against @SecretService protectees receive the highest priority of all of our investigations".
Cooper said Tuesday he was "appalled" by the "clearly disgusting" photo.