There must be something weird in the Washington, D.C. water lately.
On Saturday, an MSNBC host, caught in a big lie about homophobic rants she posted on an old blog — she wasn’t hacked, she wrote them — offered this as an excuse: “I genuinely do not believe I wrote those hateful things.” That’s right, she simply doesn’t believe she wrote them, so — to her and her liberal defenders — she didn’t.
Then on Sunday, the president of the White House Correspondents’ Association proffered an equally lame excuse for a crude and disgusting set by a comedian at the group’s annual ritzy dinner on Saturday night at the Washington Hilton.
“Last night’s program was meant to offer a unifying message about our common commitment to a vigorous and free press while honoring civility, great reporting and scholarship winners, not to divide people,” WHCA President Margaret Talev of Bloomberg News said in a statement. “Unfortunately, the entertainer’s monologue was not in the spirit of that mission.”
“… not in the spirit of that mission.” But hang on a quick sec: Talev is the one who picked the vulgar and crass comedian, Michelle Wolf. Each year, the WHCA conducts a painstaking search for an entertainer (the pickings keep get slimmer as few apparently want the gig), and this year, the president, Talev, settled on a little-known “contributor” to “The Daily Show with Trevor Noah.”
In the 1950s, maybe Talev could plead ignorance about the vicious comedy Wolf performs, but not today. A quick “surf” of the “information super highway” turns up plenty of clips of Wolf doing her gross schtick (like this one, when, after a presidential debate in the 2016 cycle, she said, “The debate was just really the cherry on top of a p***y sundae of a weekend”).
Now, make no mistake: Talev didn’t apologize. She just said Wolf’s filthy act “was not in the spirit” of the WHCA’s vaunted mission (which is, at the end of the day, to hand out awards to liberal news organizations and hold a week long party oozing with excess).
In case you missed it, Wolf regaled some 3,000 people gathered in the Hilton ballroom on Saturday, opening with this joke about President Trump’s decision to skip the mean-spirited evening, “I would drag him here myself, but it turns out the President of the United States is the one [p***y] you’re not allowed to grab. He said it first. Yeah, he did.”
Wolf made gay jokes, abortion jokes (“… 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”), a joke about a tree falling on a top White House adviser. Then Wolf turned her rapier wit toward White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.
“I actually really like Sarah. I think she’s very resourceful,” Wolf continued. “But she burns facts and then she uses that ash to create a perfect smokey eye. Like maybe she’s born with it, maybe it’s lies. It’s probably lies.”
She went on: “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?”
But Talev doesn’t need to own it. Nope, she can just — as MSNBC host Joy Reid did — fob off the blame and, without so much as an apology, move on. Here’s what Talev said on CNN on Sunday morning: “My only regret is that, to some extent, those 15 minutes are now defining four hours of what was a really wonderful, unifying night.” Now that’s funny!
And Talev moved further away from apologizing, saying, “Her goal might not have been press unity and everyone rallying around the room to support journalism. But, look — I invited her. And I invited her because I thought that she was a talented comedian with a message to deliver.”
But it’s not just Talev to blame. The entire White House press corps belongs to the association, and all members were notified when Wolf was selected as the entertainment. So for many of them to be coming out now as shocked and dismayed by the vulgar performance is simply disingenuous. They knew Wolf would savage Trump and his family and staff — she did — and they sat idly by, saying nothing.
The amazing thing about Washington, though, is that this strategy works. No one will bat an eye at the assertion that the WHCA president is furious with the comedy act at the media’s big dinner — even though she herself picked the talent.
Trump, as he often does, had the last laugh after skipping the event for the second straight year.