Michelle Wolf White House routine ignites backlash and defence of Sanders
US politics Michelle Wolf White House routine ignites backlash and defence of Sanders
- Reporters and conservatives condemn jokes about press secretary
- Michelle Wolf shocks media with Sarah Sanders attack
Even in a nation with a long and noble history of brutal comedy roasts, the performance of Michelle Wolf at the White House correspondentsâ dinner put the cat among the social media pigeons.
Twitter lit up on Saturday night and into Sunday with impassioned responses to the comicâs hyper-caustic japes at the expense of senior figures in the Trump administration. The annual event, traditionally conceived as a chance for government officials and reporters to let their hair down and poke fun at each other with some well-intentioned ribbing, descended into all-out acrimony.
At the center of the ruckus was White House press secretary Sarah Sanders who, sitting just feet away from the standup comic on the high table, was the butt of some of Wolfâs sharpest barbs.
The jokes, including references to Sanders lying during press briefings and to her facial make-up, provoked furious criticism from several current and former White House figures as well as prominent journalists.
The roast prompted a walkout from White House adviser Mercedes Schlapp and her husband Matt Schlapp, who chairs the American Conservative Union. âEnough of elites m ocking all of us,â he tweeted.
Enough of elites mocking all of usMatt Schlapp, American Conservative Union
Sean Spicer, Sandersâ predecessor as Trumpâs press secretary, told the Guardian he thought Wolfâs speech was âabsolutely disgustingâ. Trump himself, who boycotted the dinner for a second year running, was restrained by comparison, limiting himself to criticizing the event for being a âvery big, boring bust â¦ the so-called comedian really âbombedâ.â
Several top political reporters agreed with the criticism from Republican politicians. That was in itself highly unusual, given the extreme estrangement of the press corps from a president who constantly berates them for what he calls âfake newsâ.
Andrea Mitchell of NBC News called for an apology for Wolfâs speech, which she said was the worst since Don Imus embarrassed the Clintons by making reference to Bill Clintonâs extramarital affairs in an after-dinner address in 1996.'They hate your guts': Trump attacks media and Democrats at Michigan rally Read more
Two key New York Times reporters expressed distress. Maggie Haberman, who has written some of the most excoriating dispatches on the Trump White House and has been attacked for it by the president, leapt to Sandersâ defense, praising her for absorbing the Wolf blitz rather than walking out. Peter Baker, the Timesâs chief White House correspondent, said: âI donât think we advanced the cause of journalism tonight.â
Wolf â" who told the Guardian in 2016 âfour more years of Donald Trump jokes â¦ will drive me insaneâ â" answered Haberman on Twitter. âHey mags!â she wrote. âAll these jokes were about [Sandersâ] despicable behavior. Sounds like you have some thoughts about her looks though?â
She also claimed she had not been criticizing Sandersâ looks, writing: âI said she burns f acts and uses the ash to create a *perfect* smoky eye. I complimented her eye makeup and her ingenuity of materials.â
Amid contrition from reporters, the president of the White House Correspondentsâ Association, which organized the dinner, tried to assuage sore feelings without going as far as to make an apology.
All these jokes were about [Sandersâ] despicable behaviorMichelle Wolf
Margaret Talev, senior White House correspondent for Bloomberg, told CNNâs Reliable Sources she âregrettedâ that the 15 minutes of Wolfâs speech âare now defining four hours of what was a really wonderful, unifying night. And I donât want the cause of unity to be undercut.â
Piling in from the other direction, there was also a mass of comment on social media defending Wolfâs first amendment right to speak as she saw fit and decrying the inability of so many people to take a joke.
The actor and comedian Ros ie OâDonnell, one of Trumpâs bÃªtes noires, slammed those who called Wolfâs speech vulgar by replying: âItâs a roast â" truth telling is required.âTree planted at White House by Trump and Macron appears to have vanished Read more
The comedian Kathy Griffin, who was at the dinner, ridiculed those who said Sanders should not have been subjected to such disrespect: âSarah was there representing Trump, on the dais, at an event with a professional comic who was hired to do a roast.â
Griffin knows a thing or two about the price comics can pay when they are deemed to have crossed a line in joking about Trump. When she posted a photo of herself last year carrying a model of Trumpâs severed head, as a satirical comment on the presidentâs treatment of women, she was widely denounced and shunned.
The continuing furore over the dinner was, in the last analysis, thoroughly Trumpian. A few years ago, when Barack Obama was in the Oval Offic e, the White House Correspondentsâ Dinner was criticized for being a cosy club in which administration officials and journalists ate together, laughed and sang together and generally fawned over each other.
How times have changed.Topics
- US politics
- US press and publishing
- Washington DC
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