|Sarah Huckabee Sanders|
I’ve not commented on the now-infamous Michelle Wolf performance at the annual White House Correspondents Association dinner on Saturday night because I wanted to take a bit to understand the “outrage.”
I’ve read the text of Wolf’s performance and seen the video, and to be honest I don’t see the “cringeworthy” or “embarrassing” content folks seem to be up in arms about.
The performance was a roast. That, by definition, means folks are going to be joked about.
Initially, I heard about the terrible “attack” on White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders. That Wolf’s comments went after her “appearance.”
I assumed Wolf did a riff on Sanders’ weight or attractiveness. But no – Wolf made a joke about Sanders’ “smoky eye” makeup.
Here’s the crux of Wolf’s comments about Sanders:
Every time Sarah steps up to the podium, I get excited because I’m not really sure what we’re going to get: you know, a press briefing, a bunch of lies or divided into softball teams. “It’s shirts and skins, and this time, don’t be such a little b—-, Jim Acosta.”
I actually really like Sarah. I think she’s very resourceful. Like, she burns facts, and then she uses the ash to create a perfect smoky eye. Like, 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 Sarah Huckabee Sanders? Is it Cousin Huckabee? Is it Auntie Huckabee Sanders? Like, what’s Uncle Tom but for white women who disappoint other white women? Oh, I know: Aunt Coulter.
The comment about “smoky eye” was a riff on Sanders’ lying to the press on a daily basis. It wasn’t an “attack” on her appearance.
Writing for HuffPost, Michelangelo Signorile had this take:
The performance has everyone talking, and many are expressing outrage that she “went too far” ― outrage that seems phony and forced. Some journalists who cover the White House and, unsurprisingly, many conservatives and Trump supporters are up in arms about Wolf’s barbs.
In both cases, the reactions are troublingly hypocritical.
The response of many Washington journalists is a particularly bad sign. It shows us some prominent sectors of the fourth estate are acquiescing to the Trump administration ― normalizing it ― rather than taking up the challenge of dealing with an authoritarian presidency.
Frankly, the reactions reek of an attempt to protect access by brown-nosing members of the administration ― but at the cost of legitimizing a president and an administration that has attacked the free press and called just about everyone in it a purveyor of “fake news.”
Where I was sitting, people were laughing generously in response to many jokes, and, as with any comedian, less so to others.
Beltway reporters for larger news organizations who’ve been viciously attacked themselves by the most vulgar, insulting, offensive president in U.S. history suddenly seemed shocked ― shocked! ― by what they perceived as vulgarity and insults coming from a female comedian.
I highly encourage you to read the full piece by Michelangelo. I think he’s spot on.
Here’s some of the response from the world of journalists:
That awkward moment when journalists say comedians are the problem. pic.twitter.com/cqig9IKS0w
— Richard Hine (@richardhine) April 30, 2018
Couldn’t agree more. So much important and amazing journalism this year — that should be the focus, when truth matters and is needed more than ever. It was an embarrassment in the room and surely to the audience at home. https://t.co/vhbnG6tn55
— Jeff Zeleny (@jeffzeleny) April 29, 2018
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.
— Maggie Haberman (@maggieNYT) April 29, 2018
I asked @maggieNYT to quote the line where Michelle intensely criticized SHS’s appearance. She unfollowed me.
She has an extremely important job. Making vague statements that she herself cannot back up with facts/quotes isn’t helping.
— Kumail Nanjiani (@kumailn) April 29, 2018
Lies turning into ash turning into a smokey eye is a joke about lies. Calling her Aunt Lydia is a joke about standing for the oppression of women under the guise of folksy warmth. These aren’t jokes about her physical appearance. They’re intense criticisms of her character.
— Bess Kalb (@bessbell) April 29, 2018
And Donald Trump, who refused to show up for a second year in a row due to his thin skin and inability to handle any criticism, chimed in thusly:
The White House Correspondents’ Dinner was a failure last year, but this year was an embarrassment to everyone associated with it. The filthy “comedian” totally bombed (couldn’t even deliver her lines-much like the Seth Meyers weak performance). Put Dinner to rest, or start over!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 30, 2018