Skip to comments.Comedian Faces Criticism After Controversial Remarks At D.C. Gala
Posted on 04/29/2018 6:55:47 AM PDT by BenLurkin
President Trump's absence for the second year in a row from the annual White House Correspondents' Dinner may end up being the least controversial thing about Saturday night's gathering of the White House press corps.
Chatter online among journalists and some in the administration's orbit after the event was full of criticism for comedian Michelle Wolf, who was the evening's headliner; criticism and soul-searching about the annual event itself; and an effort by former White House press secretary Sean Spicer to pressure the leadership of the White House Correspondents' Association into answering for Wolf's vulgar, personal jabs leveled primarily at the president and his inner circle.
The comedian spoke for roughly 20 minutes to a ballroom full of Washington's top journalists and political operatives. As the Washington Post's Paul Farhi wrote, Wolf's remarks "swerved from raunchy to downright nasty."
"She was particularly hard on the women associated with Trump," Farhi also wrote, adding "several cracks about [White House press secretary] Sarah Huckabee Sanders landed poorly." (Courtesy of two of Farhi's colleagues at the Post, here's a list of Wolf's "harshest" jokes.) And Politico said Wolf's performance "was a risque and uneven routine at first met with laughs but often greeted by awkward silence."
The comedic routine laced with sexual innuendo and, at times, dominated by outright vulgarities was directed primarily at Republicans and conservatives a fact not lost on those in the room who expressed their displeasure on Twitter afterward.
"My wife @mercedesschlapp and I walked out early from the wh correspondents dinner. Enough of elites mocking all of us," Matt Schlapp posted on Twitter just before 11 p.m. Schlapp is the chairman of the American Conservative Union and his wife, Mercedes, is part of the White House's communications team.
Former Trump chief of staff Reince Priebus called the night an "R/X rated spectacle that started poorly and ended up in the bottom of the canyon. Another victory for @realDonaldTrump for not attending and proving his point once again. The room was uncomfortable. Trump lovers and even a large number of Trump haters were pretty miserable."
Spicer's critique was more pointed. "Tonight's #WHCD was a disgrace," the former Trump spokesman said on Twitter.
On Sunday morning, Trump weighed in, tweeting that the dinner was "a very big, boring bust...the so-called comedian really 'bombed."
The criticism was joined by some well-known political journalists who sounded off both about Wolf's remarks and the nature of the event more broadly.
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders was the particular target of harsh treatment by Wolf as Sanders sat on the dais not far from the lectern where Wolf was speaking. Afterward, some of the journalists from outlets known to spar with the White House or to be on the receiving end of pointed attacks directly from the president spoke out on Sanders' behalf.
One example from Wolf's performance: "And I'm never really sure what to call Sarah Huckabee Sanders, you know? Is it Sarah Sanders, is it Sarah Huckabee Sanders, is it Cousin Huckabee, is it Auntie Huckabee Sanders? What's Uncle Tom but for white women who disappoint other white women? Oh, I know. Aunt Coulter."
"That @PressSec sat and absorbed intense criticism of her physical appearance, her job performance, and so forth, instead of walking out, on national television, was impressive," tweeted Maggie Haberman of The New York Times. (Haberman said on Twitter that she did not attend the event in person but had watched it on TV.)
"Lots of critics but she has always been decent and professional to me if not entirely forthcoming," The Washington Post's Josh Dawsey posted on Twitter about Sanders, attaching Haberman's tweet about the Trump spokeswoman.
about the Trump spokeswoman.
"The spirit of the event had always been jokes that singe but don't burn," said Kelly O'Donnell of NBC News, "Reporters who work with her daily appreciate that @presssec was there." Like Dawsey, O'Donnell included Haberman's tweet praising Sanders' composure under fire.
"Unfortunately, I don't think we advanced the cause of journalism tonight," Peter Baker, also of The New York Times, said online.
As Haberman's tweet had, Baker's set off a series of responses, subtweets and amens from fellow journalists.
Other journalists saw broader political implications stemming from the controversial remarks.
"Michelle Wolf and the WHCD really played into Trump's hand tonight. Trump is vulgar and mean-spirited, but that doesn't mean that Wolf needed to be the same," tweeted D.C. fixture and longtime political analyst Stuart Rothenberg.
John Ward of Yahoo News called the comedy routine "a political gift to the Trump admin[istration]."
Echoing Ward, Rothenberg and Baker, Meg Kinnard of The Associated Press saw very specific implications for journalists, especially those working and reporting in predominantly Republican states. Saturday night's event "made the chasm between journalists and those who don't trust us, even wider," Kinnard tweeted. "And those of us based in the red states who work hard every day to prove our objectivity will have to deal with it."
Comedian Kathy Griffin, who has herself been embroiled in controversy over her past comments about the president, took up Wolf's defense and responded to Baker and other critics.
"Then don't have a comic do a roast," Griffin said on Twitter, "If you want to focus on the journalism do a boring awards show. Journalism is all about the 1st amendment..If you don't see the import of what @michelleisawolf did tonight then you don't get it."
For her part, Wolf responded to Spicer calling the event a "disgrace" with a simple "Thank you!" on Twitter. And the comedian also challenged Haberman's critique, suggesting The New York Times White House reporter was harboring unspoken concerns about Sanders' appearance.
The controversy over Wolf seemed to steal headlines which the president had seemingly tried to steal for himself by absenting himself from the dinner for a second consecutive year and going to Michigan for a campaign rally instead.
In his remarks there earlier Saturday evening, Trump had called the press "very dishonest people" and "fake news." He called the dinner in D.C. "phony" and said he had much preferred to be in Washington Township, Mich., rather than back in the nation's capital in a ballroom full of the journalists who cover him and his administration.
He told the enthusiastic crowd of supporters that had he been at the dinner in the other Washington, he would've been forced to smile through attacks on him or face negative stories afterward about not being a good sport while being roasted by Wolf.
"You know, there's no winning," he said over cheers.
Back in D.C., Matt and Mercedes Schlapp articulated Trump's concerns more philosophically concerns widely shared by conservatives across the country who see themselves as losing out in a broader culture war despite their electoral victories in the Trump era.
"It's why America hates the out of touch leftist media elite," Mercedes Schlapp tweeted.
They just can’t stop shooting themselves in both feet. Keep going. Show the ugliness for what it is.
Anotherwords it was just like every other WH Correspondents/Awards dinner, Dems ripping into Repubs.
“...who work hard every day to prove our objectivity....”
Sure they do.
Best to know your enemy well.
They “roasted” Hussein by making “jokes” about Hussein’s critics.
For years, it infuriated me to see Republicans go to this thing only to get a kick me sign taped to their back, and then sit there while the leftists media had their way with them, all in good fun.
I never understood why they would go, because it was never in “good fun”, ever.
Just one more thing Donald Trump does (not going to this event, and then bashing it from a rally halfway across the country) that I just love.
I (along with what has been reported as another 25,000 people) attended the Washing MI rally instead. The only vulgar words I heard the entire night came from the dozen, or so, protesters outside. There was considerable raucous cheering, however.
The dinner is just an extension of what those drones do every day. Whats special or new or funny about that? Certainly nothing to get dressed up and break bread over.
Unfortunately, I don’t think we advanced the cause of journalism tonight,” Peter Baker, also of The New York Times, said online.
Mere words cannot express my loathing of these people.
Just watched it,two pedo jokes and one abortion joke.Who thinks that’s funny?This woman was invited and paid.
I don't think that's impressive at all. I would much prefer it if the Press Secretary had stood up, looked that cheap "comedienne" in the eye and said something acerbic. Too many Republicans/conservatives just sit there and take it. In the Trump era, those days should be over. I'm sorry to see they are not...at least not yet.
If you have to resort to making journalism all about the 1st amendment, to hell with the facts and the truth, its just because you can. Its diarrhea of the mouth on full auto which aught to be as highly regulated and taxed as our non infringable rights to have guns that shoot that fast and irresponsibly.
The liberals try to throw the same thinking on us describing the 2nd Amendment as being all about guns. Well baby, it aint "all about guns", (its all about why you all dont want us to have any) and as long as you continue to force yourself to believe THAT, you will never see the import of what our founding fathers did over 200 years ago, and clearly, YOU DONT GET IT!
If it is Gutfeld then I think TRUMP will attend
The vermin are being exposed.
Why any patriotic American would go and break bread with these commie, leftist, socialist pigs is beyond comprehension.
They even had the vile David Hogg there, perfect.
I think it should be called the White House Corps Despondants Association.
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