On Sunday, April 29, 2018, comedian Michelle Wolf received a backlash for her set at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner the previous night. During a nearly 20-minute set, Wolf took aim at the Washington, D.C. crowd, which included politicians and the establishment press. Most of the complaints focused on what Wolf said about White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, but that was a cover — and a lot of conservatives are going along with it because they want to score political points.
Let’s be honest here. Michelle Wolf went after a lot of people in her 19-minute set, including herself. All told, this is who she went after:
- Donald Trump and his campaign
- Hilton (“It’s not nice”)
- C-SPAN (“No one watches that”)
- The White House Correspondents’ Association (“The mung fish was fine”)
- Roy Moore
- Reince Priebus
- Jake Tapper
- Hillary Clinton’s campaign
- Men who don’t pull out
- Harvey Weinstein
- Trump’s grown children (except Tiffany)
- Mike Pence
- Anderson Cooper
- Bear Stearns
- Al Franken
- Ted Kennedy
- Mitch McConnell
- Paul Ryan
- Chris Christie
- The Republicans
- The Democrats
- Kellyanne Conway
- Scott Pruitt
- Anne Coulter
- Fox News
- Sean Hannity
- Rachel Maddow
- The press collectively
- The anti-immigrant crowd
- Flint, Michigan
Yet we are talking about one person and projecting things onto that comedy set. It says more about us and the press that’s pushing this narrative.
The Comedy Set Itself
Here is the video of the set from NBC News:
And this is what Michelle Wolf said about Sarah Huckabee Sanders:
And, of course, we have Sarah Huckabee Sanders. We are graced with Sarah’s presence tonight. I have to say I’m a little starstruck. I love you as ‘Lydia’ on The Handmaid’s Tale. Mike Pence, if you haven’t seen it, you would love it.
Every time Sarah steps up to the podium, I get excited because I don’t know what we’re gonna get: you know, a press briefing, a bunch of lies, or divided into softball teams. [In a gruff voice] ‘It’s shirts and skins and this time, don’t be such a little b—h, Jim Acosta!’
I actually really like Sarah. I think she’s very resourceful. Like, she burns facts and then she uses that ash to create a perfect smoky eye. I mean, maybe she’s born with it. Maybe it’s lies. It’s probably lies.
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? Like, what’s Uncle Tom for white women but for white women who disappoint other white women? Oh, I know … Aunt Coulter.
The only thing that could remotely be called a mention of Sanders’ appearance is the joke about “a perfect smoky eye.” If anything, that was a compliment.
The Backlash Over the Sarah Huckabee Sanders Jokes
Since Saturday, some people have reacted to Wolf’s jokes, with some predictable responses from the right and disappointing responses from the press.
Here’s “retired comedian” and snowflake Dennis Miller with his response:
Sean Spicer can’t get a job because he destroyed his credibility lying for Trump, but here’s his ironic response to Michelle Wolf’s jokes:
MSNBC’s Mike Brzezinski and Andrea Mitchell weighed in and also came down on Michelle Wolf:
The same is true for The New York Times’ Maggie Haberman:
Of course, Wolf defended her work. In one tweet, told the comedienne Mika Brzezinski that she was actually complimenting Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ makeup skills. In another, Wolf said told Haberman the jokes were not aimed at Huckabee Sanders’ looks but Wolf was going after the press secretary’s character. In another tweet, Wolf sarcastically thanked Spicer for his “disgraceful” remark.
Why People Are Really Mad at Wolf
On some level, yes, many of those who watched the last minutes of the WHCD felt some sympathy for Sarah Huckabee Sanders. She was singled out at one point and she was clearly uncomfortable. But the truth is Michelle Wolf didn’t make fun of Huckabee Sanders’ looks. For anyone to make it about the press secretary’s looks says more about them. It’s pure projection.
As I said, the press is using Huckabee Sanders as a cover because during her speech, Wolf called the American press out on its BS.
What Wolf Said CNN
A lot of people want to see Trump be impeached. I do not because just when you think Trump is awful, you remember Mike Pence. Mike Pence is what happens when Anderson Cooper isn’t gay. Mike Pence is a person who brushes his teeth and drinks orange juice and goes, ‘Mmmm.’
We’ve got our friends at CNN here. Welcome, guys. It’s great to have you. You guys love breaking news and you did it. You broke it. Good work.
The most useful information on CNN is when Anthony Bourdain tells me where to eat noodles.
What Wolf Said About Fox News
You guys gotta stop putting Kellyanne on your shows. All she does is lie. If you don’t give her a platform, she has nowhere to lie.
Fox News is here, so you know what that means, ladies! Cover your drinks. (Laughs) Seriously.
What Wolf Said About MSNBC
We’ve got MSNBC here. MSNBC’s new slogan is ‘This Is Who We Are.’ Guys, it’s not a good slogan. ‘This Is Who We Are’ is what your mom thinks the sad show on NBC is called. ‘Did you see This Is Who We Are this week? Someone left on a crock pot and everyone died.’
I watch Morning Joe every morning and we now know that Mika and Joe are engaged. Congratulations, you guys. It’s like when a #MeToo works out.
We also have Rachel Maddow. We cannot forget about Rachel Maddow. She is the Peter Pan of MSNBC, but instead of never growing up, she never gets to the point.
Watching Rachel Maddow is like going to Target: you went in for milk, but you left with shampoo, candles, and the entire history of the Byzantine Empire. ‘I didn’t need this.’
And of course, there’s Megan Kelly. What would I do without Megan Kelly? Probably be more proud of women.
Megan Kelly got paid $23 million by NBC then NBC didn’t let Megan Kelly go to the Winter Olympics. Why not? She’s so white, cold, and expensive that she might as well be the Winter Olympics.
And by the way, Megan, Santa’s black. The weird-eyed white guy going through your chimney was Bill O’Reilly. You might want to put a flue on it or something.
What Wolf Said About the Press Collectively
There’s a ton of news right now. A lot is going on and we have all these 24-hour news networks. And we could be covering everything, but instead, we’re, like covering three topics. Every hour, it’s Trump, Russia, Hillary, and a panel of four people who remind you why you don’t go home for Thanksgiving. [In a gruff voice] ‘Milk comes from nuts now all ’cause of the gays!’
You guys are obsessed with Trump. Did you used to date him? Because you pretend that you hate him, but I think you love him.
I think what no one in this room wants to admit is that Trump has helped all of you. He couldn’t sell steaks or vodka or water or college or ties or Eric, but he has helped you. He has helped you sell your papers and your books and your TV. You helped create this monster and now you’re profiting off of him. And if you’re going to be profiting off of Trump the least you could do is give him some money because he doesn’t have any.
The Ugly Truth
This is all true and the press doesn’t want to admit it. The press was largely responsible for the rise of Trump because of the attention it gave him during the 2016 presidential election. That sucker got over $2 billion in free press coverage, and some of that includes 30 minutes in which their cameras were parked in front of an empty podium.
And now, the press is largely focused on this Russia, Russia, Russia stuff because it makes them money and it doesn’t offend to many people in power. Rachel Maddow is now the #1 primetime host in large part because of her Russiagate coverage.
The press has also failed us by not covering the things that really matter. The press doesn’t have to be part of the #Resistance to Trump, but it should be adversarial to those in power. It needs to inform the people, so we can make informed decisions about the politicians we vote for and we can understand what’s going on around us. Instead, the people who call themselves journalists, especially those in legacy media, are concerned about the wrong optics, they are too close to politicians, and they live in their own bubble.
I find this comment ironic:
When the same press takes pictures like this with no sense of self-awareness:
The fact is the White House Correspondents Dinner should be done away with unless it can be retooled to exclude politicians and only focus on its intended purpose: to celebrate great journalism and to raise money for scholarships.
What People Should Really Be Angry About
Here’s one thing we should be mad at: Trump’s administration is working hard to undermine our democracy and undo much of the progress we have made over the past 60+ years.
Luke Darby wagged his finger at the press for overreacting to Michelle Wolf’s jokes at the White House Correspondents’ dinner. Although Wolf “took special aim” at Donald Trump’s press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who is “one of the most press-antagonistic political figures in the U.S. today,” the real scandals lie within Trump’s cabinet. At certain agencies (the Department of Education, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, and the Department of Justice), the department handbooks have been rewritten to omit key phrases.
At the Department of Education, which is overseen by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, 70 documents detailing the rights for students with disabilities were disposed of. While the loss of the documents doesn’t necessarily strip students of their rights, it makes it harder for students and their parents to know what their rights are and thus makes those students more vulnerable to abuse and exploitation. DeVos already gave orders to get rid of documents regarding campus sexual assault and those guiding the Department of Education to help students pay back their student loans.
At HUD, overseen by Ben Carson, the agency’s mission statement is now without anti-discrimination language and the promise to create “strong, sustainable, inclusive communities and quality affordable homes for all.”
Citizenship and Immigration Services’ mission statement now excludes the phrase “a nation of immigrants.”
At the Justice Department, the agency’s handbook for federal prosecutors now lacks all references to work against racial gerrymandering. Attorney General Jeff Sessions oversaw changes that took out sections regarding the extent of prosecutorial power and the “Need for Free Press and Public Trial.” He also put in sections for religious freedom and the need to fight against leaks.
These changes represent how Trump and other Republicans have little regard for the Constitution, the press, or the rights of minorities and Americans who disagree with them. All the while, the press is aiding Trump by being obsessed with him for all the wrong reasons and going after the wrong people.
In short, the Michelle Wolf spoke truth to power and it pissed people off. The surrounding controversy highlights the hypocrisy of ultra-conservatives and the press. It’s fine when Trump and his supporters go after the press and other people, but it’s not okay for those people to bite back or just called the former on their BS.
These people need to grow up, seriously. And the press needs to do its job.