In 2017, the comedian posed with a Halloween mask of President Trump with ketchup poured on it to resemble blood
“I was like, ‘This will maybe show up on some blog,’ ” the comedian, 58, tells PEOPLE in this week’s issue.
The image ended up costing Griffin endorsement deals, a comedy tour and her longtime gig as the co-host of CNN’s New Year’s Eve coverage with Anderson Cooper. She also received death threats from Trump supporters, as did her then 97-year-old mom Maggie and her sister Joyce, who was in hospice care for end-stage cancer.
“My mom had an old-timey answering machine — not even voice mail — and people would leave the most vitriolic hate,” Griffin says of the recordings she’d race to stop her mother from hearing.
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Despite hard times at home and being the subject of an FBI investigation (which was later dropped having found Griffin engaged in no wrongdoing), the two-time Emmy winner got back to work.
- For more from Kathy Griffin, pick up this week’s issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands now
Now, she’s detailing how the controversial image changed her life in a new concert documentary, Kathy Griffin: A Hell of a Story.
“Nothing makes me feel better, and hopefully it makes other people feel better,” Griffin says of recovering from the scandal. “I just had this gut feeling: It’s back to business. It’s back to stand-up, no matter what.”