Kathy Griffin and the nature of real forgiveness

Once the pitchforks come out, it’s very hard to stand up to a mob.

After taking a stand for forgiveness, Sen. Al Franken couldn’t withstand the pressure to cancel an appearance with Kathy Griffin, the comedian who was stupid enough to be photographed holding a bloodied head that obviously was meant to portray President Donald Trump.

Disgusting? Of course. Few reasonable people argue with that. Even Kathy Griffin acknowledges that now.

Griffin did all the right things after doing the wrong thing. She also lost her job with CNN on New Year’s Eve because the network didn’t want to be associated with her. Fair enough; the brand must be protected.

Griffin apologized quickly and accepted responsibility. What’s supposed to be next once that happens?

Political opportunists — pretty much all politicians anymore — seized the outrage and Franken initially resisted.

“Kathy is a friend and she’s a terrific comedian, but this had no business being in our public discourse,” Franken told CNN on Wednesday. “And I talked to her. She has apologized… she actually begged for forgiveness and I believe in forgiveness.”

It was a gutsy stand for the concept of forgiveness at the cost of political capital. Republicans are much better than Democrats at making outrage stick to opponents. See Nugent, Ted.

Last night, Franken caved, releasing this short statement.

“I believe what Kathy Griffin did was inappropriate and not something that should be be anywhere in our national discourse. I consider her a friend and I’m glad she realized she crossed the line and apologized.

“After hearing from many Minnesotans who were rightfully offended, I’ve come to the conclusion that it would be best for her not to participate in the event we had previously scheduled. I understand why Minnesotans were upset by this, and I take that very seriously.”

Politically, it’s hard to argue with Franken’s decision. Though repentant, Griffin is politically toxic.

At the same time, though, it’s unclear what people think should happen to someone who acknowledges wrongdoing beyond being ruined forever.

Forgiveness is a courageous act of character, like that shown when the parents of murdered Amish schoolchildren showed up at the home of the parents of the killer in October 2006 to offer forgiveness.

Or when Mary Johnson of Minneapolis, whose son was murdered by Oshea Israel in 1992, forgave him and befriended him.

Forgiveness is hard. Caving in to a mob is easy.