Many reporters — even those typically associated with left-leaning media outlets — were left shocked and aghast at comedian Michelle Wolf’s bizarre and mean-spirited White House Correspondents’ Dinner monologue, after the feminist joked about abortion, CNN’s Jake Tapper, and White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ weight and appearance as Sanders looked on from her seat at the head table.
Wolf told the Daily Beast ahead of the program that she was “excited” that Sanders “was finally able to go to prom,” and once on the dias excoriated the press secretary for her makeup, choice of outfit, and weight. “She burns facts & then she uses that ash to create a perfect smoky eye. ‘Maybe she’s born with it, maybe it’s lies.’ It’s probably lies,” Wolf said as Sanders looked on.
“I’m never really sure what to call Sarah Huckabee Sanders, you know?” Wolf went on. “Is it Sarah Sanders? Is it Sarah Huckabee Sander? Is it Cousin Huckabee? Is it Auntie Huckabee Sanders? Like, what is Uncle Tom but for white women who disappoint other white women? I know… Aunt Coulter.”
How very feminist, right?
Although the joke appeared to earn Wolf the respect of figures like CNN’s Brian Stelter, and progressive icon Joan Walsh — who compared the incident to Stephen Colbert’s 2005 “roast” of then-President George W. Bush without understanding that to be a “roast” the subject has to be in on the joke — most WHCD attendees were turned off by Wolf’s nastiness, even those reporters for whom Trump is a top target.
When the WHCD Who’s Who weighed in, they were in Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ corner.
I wrote this week about the decency deficit,citing Sarah Huckabee Sanders. I was not at WHCD last night but sounds like the decency deficit was on full display in criticism of her. Attacks on looks have no place. They are not funny.
— Ruth Marcus (@RuthMarcus) April 29, 2018
Hateful and unfunny.
Mocking a woman for her appearance? I guess that counts as woke now—just as long as she isn’t progeessive. Or thin. https://t.co/FjgeIcc79J
— Terry Moran (@TerryMoran) April 29, 2018
— Kelly O’Donnell (@KellyO) April 29, 2018
The Associated Press:
If the #WHCD dinner did anything tonight, it made the chasm between journalists and those who don’t trust us, even wider. And those of us based in the red states who work hard every day to prove our objectivity will have to deal with it.
— Meg Kinnard (@MegKinnardAP) April 29, 2018
The New York Times:
Unfortunately, I don’t think we advanced the cause of journalism tonight.
— Peter Baker (@peterbakernyt) April 29, 2018
Couldn’t agree more. So much important and amazing journalism this year — that should be the focus, when truth matters and is needed more than ever. It was an embarrassment in the room and surely to the audience at home. https://t.co/vhbnG6tn55
— Jeff Zeleny (@jeffzeleny) April 29, 2018
Even the White House’s sometimes chief foe, POLITICO:
Michelle Wolf didn’t fail just because she was (spectacularly) one-sided. It was because she was unnecessarily cruel on a night the WHCA was trying to showcase decency and purpose.
Undermined an otherwise meaningful night.
— Kyle Cheney (@kyledcheney) April 29, 2018
Many attendees were willing to admit that the White House Correspondents’ Dinner should feature tough jokes that hit out at both sides of a typically contentious relationship between the White House and the press, but pointed out that the jokes about Huckabee Sanders’ appearance would never have been tolerated had they been directed at a female member of any other administration.
Hardcore leftists circled their wagons Sunday morning, defending Wolf by saying that Donald Trump says the same things about women — or even worse — but still seemed unable to comprehend that Trump was not, in fact, present at the WHCD.
Sanders took the abuse with characteristic grace.
Ed note: An earlier version of this article attributed Wolf’s quip about “prom” to her speech at the WHCD. The joke was actually made in an interview with the Daily Beast in early April. The article has been updated to reflect this change. We apologize for the error.