For the last several years, the White House Correspondents’ Dinner has mostly functioned as a make-work program for desperate cast members of “The Daily Show.” And boy, did Michelle Wolf ever prove how desperate she was on Saturday night.
President Donald Trump wasn’t there, having skipped the press’ annual celebration of themselves for a second straight year. However, press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was there for Wolf’s act, and was rewarded with jokes about her appearance.
She also got called an “Uncle Tom, but for white women who disappoint other white women.”
And then there “jokes” about Vice President Mike Pence and his 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,” Wolf said. “You know, you’ve got to get that baby out of there.”
If managing to get her name in the news was Wolf’s goal, mission accomplished. Unlike Stephen Colbert’s 2006 WHCD Bush-trashing fest — which ostensibly made him a household name — Wolf’s performance Saturday was proof that not all attention is good attention.
Take CNN, for instance. Please.
Yes, I know that line was old when Henny Youngman used it, but it was funnier than anything Michelle Wolf attempted Saturday. In any event, Trump’s least favorite network analyzed the Nerd Prom and found that the big winner was … Trump.
Host John King wondered aloud whether Wolf — and the press themselves, by inviting her — had “crossed the line” and said it seemed “way too personal.”
“There’s a way to do this and there’s a way not to do this,” King said.
“I thought the jokes were one-sided, not necessarily funny, but she was invited by the White House Correspondents’ Association,” Zeleny said, adding that Wolf’s monologue focused America’s attention away from where it should have been: on the awesomeness of the press.
“The press has done a lot of incredible work this year,” Zeleny said. “A lot of that was overtaken by a skit that wasn’t very funny and we sometimes celebrate ourselves too much, I think. The reality is that it’s an important job and last night I don’t think we lived up to it.”
Washington Post congressional reporter Karoun Demirjian, however, pointed out that Wolf’s presence essentially implied the imprimatur of the media.
“She’s effectively speaking for the press at a very tense moment,” she said. “If you are someone who’s already skeptical of whether the media is unbiased or not, it’s difficult to have the disclaimer ‘this is just an outtake, this isn’t really us.’”
And, indeed, it didn’t take long for the president to make hay while the vulgar sun was shining.
“The White House Correspondents’ Dinner was a failure last year, but this year was an embarrassment to everyone associated with it,” Trump tweeted. “The filthy ‘comedian’ totally bombed (couldn’t even deliver her lines-much like the Seth Meyers weak performance). Put Dinner to rest, or start over!”
The White House Correspondents’ Dinner was a failure last year, but this year was an embarrassment to everyone associated with it. The filthy “comedian” totally bombed (couldn’t even deliver her lines-much like the Seth Meyers weak performance). Put Dinner to rest, or start over!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 30, 2018
King pointed out that the tweet and Wolf’s material — combined with Trump’s own counter-rally in Michigan, which grabbed some of Wolf’s headlines, for better or worse — should be an object lesson to the media.
“This is one of the reasons he is president,” King said. “Runs against the establishment, runs against the elites — smart politics.”
Zeleny agreed. “The president wins last night, rhetorically, no question,” he said.
Another winner ought to be Sanders, who took high-school level bullying about five feet from her. While there was no mea culpa from the White House Correspondents’ Association, Margaret Talev, president of the WHCA, came about as close to apologizing to a Trump administration official as you’ll ever hear the group do.
“What I told you is what I have already told Sarah Sanders, that I speak for myself and the association, and that my interest is in the spirit of unity and in the spirit of serious journalism,” Talev said on CNN Sunday.
“My interest overwhelmingly was in unifying the country, and I understand that we may have fallen a little bit short on that goal,” she added. “I hope everyone will allow us to continue to work toward that goal.”
As for Wolf, it was pretty obvious what her motives were — she’s got a Netflix show premiering in about a month’s time. I’m sure when she wrote this material, she was hoping the attention it would generate would last until the show premiered. Now, all she can do is hope it’s gone by then.
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