The White House Correspondents Dinner Saturday night became the occasion for a disgraceful and personal attack on White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders by comedian Michelle Wolf.
Wolf, the invited talent for the evening, a former a writer and contributor for the Daily Show with Trevor Noah, attacked other members of the Trump administration, but Sarah Sanders bore the brunt of the comedian's unfunny viciousness.
This is some of what Wolf said about Sanders:
“I have to say I’m a little star-struck. I love you as Aunt Lydia in ‘The Handmaid’s Tale.’ Mike Pence, if you haven’t seen it, you would love it.”
“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.”
It was open season on conservative women. Speaking of Kellyanne Conway, Wolf said:
“She has the perfect last name for what she does, Conway … You guys have got to stop putting Kellyanne on your shows. All she does is lie. If you don’t give her a platform, she has nowhere to lie. It’s like that old saying, if a tree falls in the woods, how do we get Kellyanne under that tree? I’m not suggesting she gets hurt. Just stuck. Stuck under a tree.”
Footage broadcast live on cable TV networks showed Sanders sitting at the head table on stage stone-faced, wincing and at times raising her eyebrows as Wolf compared her to a character on the dystopian TV series "The Handsmaid's Tale" and to an "Uncle Tom" for white women.
"I actually really like Sarah. I think she's very resourceful. But she burns facts and then she uses that ash to create a perfect smokey eye," Wolf joked about Sanders. "Like maybe she's born with it; maybe it's lies. It's probably lies."
It was a risque and uneven routine at first met with laughs but often greeted by awkward silence. Wolf laced into the president and repeatedly brought up his comments from the "Access Hollywood" tape. The performance evinced memories of the 2006 dinner, at which Stephen Colbert savagely satirized the Bush administration.
Wolf opened her act with the line, “Good evening, here we are at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner. Like a porn star says when she’s about to have sex with Trump, let’s get this over with,” the first of many bawdy insults.
Wolf's other targets included Vice President Mike Pence, White House counselor Kellyanne Conway, and the president's personal lawyer, Michael Cohen.
But much of the room went silent with Wolf's personalized attacks — and an abortion joke that wasn't well received — and after the Comedy Central comedian joked that she wished a tree would fall on Conway, adding that she did not hope that the White House aide would get hurt, but only "that she would get stuck."
Since abortion jokes are rare, whether in pro-choice or pro-life circles, I am going to give you Wolf's in full because I think it perfectly captures Wolf's particular comedic sensibility. As reported by CNN:
Here's Wolf's joke about Vice President Mike Pence's opposition to abortion: "He thinks abortion is murder which, first of all, don't knock it 'til you try it — and when you do try it, really knock it. You know, you've got to get that baby out of there."
Does anyone think this joke is funny? You can hate abortion and think it is murder. You can feel as though it's not the government's business what you do with your body and how you handle your own life. But, does anyone celebrate abortion — even jokingly?
Here is Wolf's segment on Youtube. I have to say that the audience was less stunned than you'd think from the Politico report.
Sarah Huckabee Sanders always behaves with dignity, as she did Saturday night. I don't know how she did it. To her credit NBC's Andrea Mitchell tweeted that an apology was owed Sanders and said that Wolf was "the worst" since Don Imus had mocked the Clintons at a previous White House Correspondents Dinner.
On the other hand, journalist Michelle Goldberg, a New York Times contributor, didn't understand what the fuss was all about, tweeting:
The *** response to
@michelleisawolf is blowing my mind. If you're offended by a comedian mocking our sadistic rulers maybe shut up forever about college students and their safe spaces.
Next time you see Goldberg's byline in the paper of record, remember this tweet.
Saturday night showed why it is time to put the White House Correspondents Dinner out of its misery.
It is an evening that has no redeeming value. In an era when there is already enough bitterness and anger, it contributes only more of the same.
And evey year seems to be nastier than the last one.
Hot Air suggests that this year's performance by Wolf was so disastrous that people are actually talking about putting an end to the dinner ("Did Liberal Women Kill the White House Correspondents Dinner?")
The White House Correspondents Dinner started in 1920 as a way for the reporters and the people they covered to mingle for an evening in a convivial atmosphere.
Since then the media and elected officials (at least Democratic elected officials) have become positively incestuous in their social lives. The poor scribblers no longer need a special evening to meet admiistration officials, as they now run in the same circles–are the same circles.
The original purpose of the dinners having disappeared long ago, the White House Correspondents Dinner has become an annual exercise in nastiness.
Yes, Andrea Mithcell recalled Don Imus' making the Clintons uncomfortable. But it's more often that Republicans are made uncomfortable. Stephen Colbert's attacks on George W. Bush in 2006 spring to mind.
When President Obama was in the White House, Wanda Sykes eschewed opportunity to speak truth to power and instead went after the out-of-power Republican in what was the most vicious evening pre-Michelle Wolf.
President Trump did not attend this dinner for the second year in a row, instead holding a rally in Michigan.
Let us hope that more administration officials will next year find that they have previous engagements.
Increasingly, there is just no excuse for this dinner.