There has been a flood of comments ever since last Saturday over comedian Michelle Wolf’s roast monologue at the White House Correspondents dinner (“WHCD)’. Wolfe was an equal opportunity comedian who mocked everyone from Congress, Roy Moore, Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, Sarah Hucklebee Sanders, journalists, Michael Cohen, Reince Priebus and the Russian collusion. Margaret Talev, President of the White House Correspondents Association wrote in a letter that Wolf’s performance was not in the spirit of the dinner. She personally invited Wolf to the dinner. And therefore, she should have been aware of the comedic style. Imagine if I invited Donald Trump to speak at my Black family reunion with a few Hispanic, Haitian and Muslim friends. Why would I expect Trump to refrain from insulting everyone?
The whole point of the comedic performer at the WHCD is for the comedian to roast the President and the White House. One problem was that Donald Trump failed to attend last year and this year. The dinner is usually attended by the president except for the last two years. And in years past, the president gets to also address and roast the dinner attendees- followed by a comedian. This year, Trump sent Sarah Sanders. The absence of the president again presented a challenge for the dinner format.
There appeared to be outrage among some journalists about Wolf’s jokes about Sarah Hucklebee Sanders. Andrea Mitchell wanted Wolf to apologize to Sanders. Press secretary Sanders lies on an almost daily basis to the same White House correspondents attending the dinner. The indignation towards Wolf among some journalists about jokes made about Sarah Sanders shows that one of Wolf’s jokes missed the point. Wolf joked that Sanders was a disappointment for other white women—saying what’s a name for a white woman that disappoints other white women—Ann Coulter. A few white women journalists who came to Sanders’ defense missed the whole point of that joke. No matter how much Sanders lies to their face (and she does lie a lot) some white women still will come to her defense.
After seeing the criticisms directed at Michelle Wolf by members of the media, I came to several conclusions. The same journalists who attended the dinner support free speech –except if it is a comedy roast at their annual dinner. Then free speech and truth are off limits. Margaret Talev as president of the White House Correspondents Association failed to do her job. If Talev invited Wolf, she should have also fact checked her previous comedy routines – to understand what she was getting. It’s called buyer beware. And since this was year two that a president failed to attend the dinner, then maybe—just maybe a different format might have been considered in lieu of a one -sided monologue roast.
In the end despite the criticism, Michelle Wolf’s performance was the most watched on C-Span in the history of the White Correspondents Dinner—in just three days. She was the real winner. And the White House correspondents were the real losers. Michelle Wolf said she wouldn’t change a single word. And why should she?
Watch Michelle Wolf’s performance here:
Washington, DC based Debbie Hines is an attorney and legal/political commentator.