American comedian Kathy Griffin sparked outrage on Tuesday over a controversial photo shoot with Tyler Shields where she was holding a bloody, severed head that looked like U.S. President Donald Trump's.
Entertainment news website TMZ.com first published the photo from the session with Shields and said Griffin joked that they would need to move to Mexico after the photos were released in order to avoid prison.
In a statement to Fox News, Shields said the aim was to make a political statement and give a bold message.
"Kathy and I are friends and we worked together before, so when we started doing this shoot, she said, 'I'd love to do something political. I'd love to make a statement,'" he told Fox News. "We kind of figured out what would be the best image to make out of that."
"We didn't kill anybody nor do I feel anybody should be killed. It's no different from a movie. It just happens to be a still image."
Griffins also defended the image on Twitter, saying Shields is a "great photog[sic]/film maker" and that she doesn't condone "any violence by fans or others to anyone."
However, the photos drew immediate outrage on social media as many users, including Trump's former presidential rival Hillary Clinton's daughter Chelsea, took Twitter to criticize the "disturbing" images.
This is vile and wrong. It is never funny to joke about killing a president. https://t.co/zIiuKoMyFw— Chelsea Clinton (@ChelseaClinton) May 30, 2017
.@kathygriffin I'm sorry but that is totally inappropriate and so very offensive. And I have to believe you're smart enough to know better.— Alyssa Milano (@Alyssa_Milano) May 30, 2017
If you try to defend Kathy Griffin by saying "But the right did..."— Tony Posnanski (@tonyposnanski) May 30, 2017
Seriously stop. There is no defense.
My understanding is that Kathy Griffin has done something intentionally obnoxious to get a response, which is very off-brand for her— Sady Doyle (@sadydoyle) May 30, 2017
This Kathy Griffin thing is so upsetting and disgusting. Jesus--what is wrong with people today? Have we lost all our humanity?— Soledad O'Brien (@soledadobrien) May 30, 2017
Trump said Wednesday that the celebrity comedian "should be ashamed of herself" for appearing in the gruesome video.
In a post on his Twitter account the president said, "My children, especially my 11-year-old son, Barron, are having a hard time with this. Sick!"
First lady Melania Trump issued a statement of her own: "As a mother, a wife, and a human being, that photo is very disturbing. When you consider some of the atrocities happening in the world today, a photo opportunity like this is simply wrong and makes you wonder about the mental health of the person who did it."
CNN, where Griffin is a longtime co-host on the network's New Year's Eve coverage, called the images "disgusting and offensive," adding that they were pleased to see an apology from Griffin. "We are evaluating New Year's Eve and have made no decisions at this point," CNN said in a statement.
Squatty Potty, a Utah-based bathroom products company, said in a statement Tuesday that it has suspended an ad campaign featuring Griffin.
The president's son Eric Trump also reacted to the video on twitter, writing, "Disgusting but not surprising. This is the left today. They consider this acceptable. Imagine a conservative did this to Obama as POTUS?"
The first video showed a straight-faced Griffin slowly lifting the bloody head. She originally described the project with photographer Tyler Shields as an "artsy fartsy statement" mocking the commander in chief.