Correspondents’ Dinner Dishes up Controversy


Correspondents’ Dinner Dishes up Controversy

April 30, 2018

Michelle Wolf may have been listed as a comedian at Saturday’s White House Correspondents Dinner, but no one is quite sure why. Her monologue, an abusive personal attack on the women of this administration, was spectacularly unfunny. And by the program’s end, the only joke — liberals agreed — was that Wolf was ever invited in the first place.

After a string of especially vulgar lines, the Comedy Central contributor couldn’t help but notice the uncomfortable silence that followed. “Yeah, you shoulda done more research before you got me to do this,” she cracked. That was certainly the consensus on both sides of the political aisle after a performance so biting that some people got up and left. Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders took the brunt of the savagery, sitting quietly on the same stage as Wolf, listening as the woman at the podium derided everything from her character to her eye make-up.

“I love you as Aunt Lydia in ‘The Handmaid’s Tale,'” Wolf said, referring to an evil character on the show. “Every time Sarah steps up to the podium I get excited because I’m not real sure what we’re going to get — a press briefing, a bunch of lies or divided into softball teams. I really like Sarah, I think she’s very resourceful. She burns facts, and then she uses that ash to create a perfect smoky eye. Maybe she’s born with it… maybe it’s lies.” In an especially cringe-worthy moment, Wolf compared Sanders to Uncle Tom. “I’m never really sure what to call Sarah Huckabee Sanders. Is it Sarah Sanders, is it Sarah Huckabee Sanders? Is it Cousin Huckabee? Is it Auntie Huckabee Sanders? Like what’s Uncle Tom for white women who disappoint other white women?”

And Sanders wasn’t the only target. Wolf called the president’s daughter, Ivanka, “as helpful to women as an empty box of tampons.” She took on Kellyanne Conway, a key White House advisor, insisting she was an inveterate liar, and asked: “If a tree falls in the woods, how do we get Kellyanne under that tree?”

For the media, who’s already in an uphill battle for Americans’ trust, Saturday’s dinner didn’t exactly help matters. “If the #WHCD dinner did anything tonight, it made the chasm between journalists and those who don’t believe us even wider,” tweeted the AP’s Meg Kinnard. MSNBC co-host of “Morning Joe,” Mika Brzezinski, was one of the dozens of horrified Left-leaning reporters to come to Sarah’s defense. “Watching a wife and mother be humiliated on national television for her looks is deplorable.”  She’s right. Not only was the profanity inappropriate for this kind of public forum, but the harassment of Sanders made more than a few of us wonder: what happened to all of those anti-bullying crusaders?

Fortunately, the president’s spokeswoman is made of tough stuff. And if the Left’s response is any indication, her grace — not Wolf’s vitriol — won the night. “That @PressSec sat and absorbed intense criticism of her physical appearance, her job performance, and so forth, instead of walking out, on national television, was impressive,” said the New York Times’s Maggie Haberman. It also perfectly exposed Trump’s opponents for the vulgar, bullying hypocrites they are. Of course, conservatives are used to being the liberal media’s punchline. They’ve endured years of scorn and ridicule for their beliefs at the hands of an elitist industry that operates from a one-sided rulebook where intolerance is just “free speech” and hate is the new comedy. “Democrats love to talk about the war on women,” Sanders pointed out afterward. “The only war on women that I see is the one that’s being waged against every woman and every female that’s close to this president.”

Meanwhile, as liberals like Wolf try to redraw the lines of what’s acceptable, they’re only proving Trump right. Saturday’s diatribe deeply hurts the media’s credibility — at a time when they can least afford it. Once again, it’s a major miscalculation by the president’s opponents, who insist they’ve cornered the market on civility – only to turn around and victimize the women they claim to represent. In the end, all Wolf’s attacks will have accomplished is firing up the “deplorables” — which, as Hillary Clinton can tell you, isn’t the wisest election strategy. Either way, President Trump, who’s shunned the event for two years, emerges smarter for it. Kyle Smith explains in a great column for NRO how the White House consistently manages to tap into the frustrations of Middle America.

Every year, no matter who holds the White House, the viciousness [of the correspondents’ dinner] is trained on the same side… The president has done a useful public service in exposing the sham for what it is: one of many opportunities the cultural leadership seizes, in any given year, to wheel the Trojan horse of Democratic-party propaganda into a supposedly politically neutral event. The Oscars and the Emmys and the Grammys and the Golden Globes do the same thing, but viewers have caught on and turned their attention elsewhere.

Trump, by refusing to play the game, has made everyone notice that it’s fixed. Shattering norms and breaking with established precedents isn’t always wise, but whether you attribute it to shrewd instinct or blundering, Trump’s method can be a bracing response to institutions corrupted by their own partisanship. As he did with the Oscars and the National Football League before them, Trump has forced the WHCD to take a deep breath and think about whether it really wants to continue alienating half the country.

“Put the dinner to rest or start over,” the president tweeted. It’s not a bad idea. If the media wants to be taken seriously, they ought to do the country (and themselves) a favor and pull the plug on events like this one.

Tony Perkins’ Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.

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