Comedian Michelle Wolf hosted the White House Correspondents’ Dinner this Saturday and shocked the crowd with her scathing set. In particular, her jokes about press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders really ruffled some Republican feathers.
In a telling and frustrating statement released on Sunday, Margaret Talev, president of the White House Correspondents Association, claimed that the White House Correspondents Dinner “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.” Talev also told Politico that some Wolf’s jokes made her “uncomfortable and did not embody the spirit of the night” adding that she “appreciated Sarah Sanders for joining us at the head table and her grace through the program.”
Margaret Talev, and every single political journalist who has joined this cringe-inducing chorus, is full of shit. Journalism is not about unifying people; it is about speaking truth to power and reporting the truth to a public that is desperately in need of it.
In creating this self-serving controversy, Talev and others who share her view have proved Wolf’s point: the press is far more concerned with power and access than they are with performing their jobs—being truth seekers for the American people.
Also, for what it’s worth, if the aim is to make the White House Correspondents Dinner about journalism and scholarship, maybe don’t invite a bunch of celebrities to the event or christen the event “nerd prom.” Another pro tip: don’t hire a comedian who once called Trump “a racist fake gynecologist” to to lead a roast.
While we’re on the topic of truth, let’s get this straight: Wolf never attacked Sanders’ appearance. As Wolf explained on Twitter, all she did was jest that the press secretary “burns facts and uses the ash to create a perfect smoky eye.” That is a compliment to her eye makeup and a jab at her penchant for lying. Even the quip that compared Sanders to The Handmaid's Tale character Aunt Lydia was not a dig at her looks, but an astute observation that Sanders, like the character, is used as a tool by men to uphold patriarchy.
In expressing outrage after a purported attack on her looks, these reporters have gone out of their way to expose not only their lack of comedic comprehension, but their own apparent feelings about Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ appearance. Michelle Wolf never called that lady a boogawolf; if anything, the comedian skillfully managed to eviscerate Sanders without speaking ill of her physical appearance.
Pop quiz: when has the Associated Press ever used the term “vulgar” to describe the bigoted remarks of President Trump, a person who calls Mexicans “rapists,” branded immigrants as “criminals,” berates Black athletes who protest peacefully as “sons of bitches,” deems African nations and Haiti to be “shit hole countries”—all the while considering Nazis to be “very fine people”? Answer: never-ever-ever-ever. While they’ve called Sweet Potato Saddam’s language vulgar, they’ve long failed to call out the anti-immigrant sentiment behind it. But when Wolf dared to attack the media, the distinction mysteriously crumbled.
Ultimately, what many reporters truly seem to be vexed about is Wolf insulating that the press played a pivotal role in making President Trump a reality and have benefitted immensely from it. In failing to directly address Wolf’s claims and instead latching onto a narrative about a comedian attacking another woman’s appearance, the news media reminded us that, despite many of them being paid handsomely to dispense and analyze the news, most journalists just play the role of a parrot.
If Wolf’s detractors really cared about journalism, they would be far less concerned about Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ feelings and more alarmed by the antics of the burgeoning fascists for whom she serves as a mouthpiece.
As for Sarah Huckabee Sanders: fuck everyone who felt compelled to compliment her “graciousness.” She merely endured getting a much needed dose of her own medicine.