Joan Rivers Hired Bodyguard After Israel-Palestine Death Threats

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Comedienne's anti-Palestinian comments sparred backlash, death threats

In the weeks leading up to her death on Sept. 4, Joan Rivers hired a personal bodyguard after receiving death threats because of her lightning-rod comments on Palestinian civilian deaths, a close personal friend tells The Hollywood Reporter.

According to fellow New Yorker Blaine Trump, the vice chair of the charity God’s Love We Deliver — where Rivers was a longtime board member — the comedienne felt her safety was in danger after speaking to a TMZ reporter in early August about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. “When she came out and said Israel had every right to bomb Hamas, the death threats started rolling in,” says Trump. 

The controversial quotes to TMZ were in response to a question about how she felt about the deaths of civilian Palestinians. “Good,” said Rivers on Aug. 6 in comments caught on video at Los Angeles International Airport. “Ask Colin Powell. When you declare war, you declare war. They started it. We don't count who's dead. You're dead. You deserve to be dead. You started it. Don't you dare make me feel sad about that. You can't get rid of Hamas, you have to say you do not recognize them, they are terrorists ... They were re-elected by a lot of very stupid people who don't even own a pencil."

Amid an immediate uproar over her comments, Rivers quickly released a statement on Facebook saying she had been taken out of context: "I am both saddened and disappointed that my statement about the tragedy of civilian casualties was totally taken out of context. What I said and stand behind is, war is hell and unfortunately civilians are victims of political conflicts. The media, as usual, has decided to only quote the most out of context and inflammatory non sequitur rather than giving an accurate account of what my intentions were behind the statement. Along with every other sane person in this world, I am praying for peace."

The damage was done, though. Trump tells THR that she ran into Rivers recently at Amaranth, a restaurant they both frequented in Manhattan, where the star was accompanied by a man sitting at another table. Recalls Trump: “I asked her about the whole Palestinian question that was going on. She said, ‘Well, just look to your left. That’s my new best friend because of all the death threats. She wasn't joking ... her bodyguard sat at the next table while we had dinner! She was so outspoken, but it was quite frightening at times."

However, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wanted to meet with her after her comments. 

A spokesperson for Israel's U.S. Consulate's office tells THR: "Following her pro-Israel comments during operation Protective Edge, the Prime Minister reached out to Joan Rivers and wanted to arrange a meeting."

When asked about the death threats and the bodyguard, Rivers' publicist Judy Katz responded, "Not that I know of."