Sarah Savaged at White House Correspondents’ Dinner

Classy. Sarah Huckabee Sanders attends the 2018 White House Correspondents' Dinner at Washington Hilton on April 28, 2018 in Washington, DC. She would be viciously attacked by the night's entertainer Michelle Wolf.

By Al Perrotta Published on April 29, 2018

I had hoped President Trump would go to last night’s White House Correspondents’ Dinner. I had hoped he would go, look out at all those correspondents who build up their bank accounts and Twitter hits by tearing him down, and deliver a killer monologue. In Russian. Boom. Mic drop. Hearty, healthy laughs across the room and spectrum. “Later. Got to finish up denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula. Enjoy dessert.”

Instead, Trump held a rally in Washington Township, Michigan. In light of events, it’s clear he made the right choice. However, those booking the entertainment did not.

The Dinner Turns Distasteful

The White House Correspondents’ Dinner is a fancy annual affair where those who cover the White House gather in their finest and celebrate their own wonderfulness. That’s fine. Presidents would come and good hearted punchlines would fly in both directions. Then Hollywood glitz started creeping in. The correspondents fought over who could bring the hottest celebrity. Future First Lady Kim Kardashian West, for example. However, in recent years, the dinners served up two dishes pumped full of spiritual botulism:  Malice and Vulgarity.

Think of Stephen Colbert, who in 2006, went on a nasty tirade against President George W. Bush. Barbara Bush’s funeral had more genuine laughs.

Think of Larry Wilburn, whose “n-bomb” dropping hostility last year was matched only by his routine’s complete lack of actual humor.

Think even of President Obama, whose snarky swipes at Donald Trump in 2011 lit a fire in the businessman that is now burning down every trace of Obama’s legacy.

Michelle Wolf’s Low Road

However, last night brought a new low from Michelle Wolf. The Daily Show contributor — I won’t use the word “comedian” — mixed malice and vulgarity in a vicious, disgraceful assault on Sarah Huckabee Sanders. The left-leaning Yahoo News! called it “an astonishing barrage of mockery.” Even CNN — CNN! — was dismayed: “Being funny is one thing,” said CNN’s Chris Cillizza, “Bullying people because you can is another. And Wolf’s treatment of Sanders was bullying.”

With Sanders seated just a few feet away, Wolf opened her attack with “I love you as Aunt Lydia in The Handmaid’s Tale.” Aunt Lydia is the show’s evil disciplinarian. That, as Yahoo News says, was “one of the kinder barbs.” “I’m just excited Sarah finally gets to go to the prom,” she cracked. “She burns facts and uses the ash to create a perfect smokey eye,” she hissed.

Wolf would go on to compare Sanders to a white woman’s version of an Uncle Tom. She repeatedly called her a liar. She attacked Sanders’ appearance. If a comedian attacked a liberal woman that way they’d never work again. Instead, the left being the left, Wolf is getting her own show on Comedy Central.

And who did she attack? The woman who busts her tail every day serving and communicating with the people in that room. Shame on the correspondents for not booing. Let’s all watch Monday’s briefing. Will the White House correspondents be able to look Sanders in the eyes knowing they paid for that pillaging?

Sander’s predecessor Sean Spicer was livid, not just at the cruelty toward Sanders, but also at Wolf’s vulgarity, which included a grotesque celebrate abortion shtick. “It was absolutely disgusting,” Spicer said. “The idea that people clapped at that. It’s one thing to celebrate the first amendment but that, tonight, was one of the most disgusting and deplorable things I’ve ever heard in my life. The language, the references were way over the line.”

Mike Huckabee called the attack on his daughter “vicious vile,” tweeting:

Comedian Tim Young said the routine went beyond comedy and showed “hatred.”

Politico‘s Kyle Cheney called Wolf “unnecessarily cruel.”

“Decency and purpose.” As if Wolf or her like-minded peers have use for either.

As for Sanders, she met the insults with stone-faced silence.

This surprised Maggie Haberman, the New York Times White House correspondent as well. She tweeted: “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.”

It’s called “class.” It’s called “dignity.” It’s called knowing who she is in Christ … and knowing that long after Wolf is a lost footnote on Wikipedia, Sanders will be hailed as an inspiration to a generation of young women.

Malice is a Comedy Menace

After one of her barrage of crass jokes drew groans in the Washington Hilton ballroom, Wolf laughed and said, “Yeah, shoulda done more research before you got me to do this.”  That is the point. They knew exactly what they were getting. The White House Correspondents’ Association knew darn well they were getting a vicious and vulgar partisan hack who’d throw knives. As Trump told the crowd in Michigan, “They hate you.”

The association’s president Margaret Talev fed a line to CNN’s Reliable Sources Sunday. “My only regret is that to some extent those 15 minutes are now defining four hours of what was a really wonderful unifying night and I don’t want the cause of unity to be undercut.” The cause of unity. Sure, Margaret. You hire a Trump-hating liberal from The Daily Show for unity? That’s like plucking a member of the Klan to help promote racial harmony.

Still, I suspect they didn’t know Sanders would be the primary target. Someone they have gotten to know. And judging from the generally relaxed vibe in the press briefings, have come to like and respect. Maybe next year, they’ll think twice. Maybe they’ll invite someone whose humor isn’t laced with hatred. Someone who doesn’t think those she disagrees with are “despicable.” (This was Wolf’s defense of her attack.)

Perhaps they’ll even take Trump’s suggestion of Fox News’ impish Greg Gutfield.

Gutfield dishes political humor but with a twinkle. You see the same thing with Sander’s father, Mike Huckabee. Of course he’s partisan. But his quips come with an undertone of grace. They don’t gurgle out of a repository of hate. It’s tragic how hatred has become the norm in political comedy. As I’ve written before, cruelty is easy in comedy. Partisan nastiness is as easy as sneezing at a pepper factory. If I was of a mind I could fill the morning with tweets about Wolf matching each of her Sarah insults with three right back at her.

But where does that get us? Is anybody better off today? Wolf? Sanders? The WHCA? America? The media as a whole? Trump and his supporters have a new Exhibit A for his proof of media bias. (Expect “Look what they did to Sarah” to be a staple of future speeches.)  Meg Kinnard of the Associated Press saw how last night’s antics widened the “chasm”:

Humor should not be used to rip up. It should be used to smooth over and mend together.

 

Al Perrotta is the Managing Editor of The Stream and co-author with John Zmirak of the soon-to-be released Politically Incorrect Guide to Immigration. It’ll be out May 21 from Regnery, but is available now on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

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