White House Press Corps Hosted Michelle Wolf’s Saturday Night Massacre

Cross-posted from skyislandscriber.com

This last weekend the nation witnessed a Saturday Night Massacre – just not of the Nixonian sort that we usually think of. I’m also not referring to Trump’s public display in Michigan that same night that informed us once again of what a truly awful person as President he is. I am, of course, referring to comedian Michelle Wolf taking a very sharp ax to Trump, members of his administration, and the mainstream media. Wolf’s barbs were not uniformly appreciated and she’s come under attack by those she wounded. For me, some of her punch lines flopped and some triggered a mental “ouch”. But all the rest were spot on.

Michelle Wolf
Michelle Wolf who addressed the WH press corps

So what’s the flap about? Vox.com has the answer for you in its transcript, Wonder what Michelle Wolf said to make everyone so mad? Read it here. Hint: “What would I do without Megyn Kelly? Probably be more proud of women.” But before she even got close to that …

Here we are the White House Correspondents’ Dinner. Like a porn star says when she’s about to have sex with a Trump, “Let’s get this over with.” Yep, kiddos this is who you’re getting tonight.

… I know as much as some of you might want me to, it’s 2018 and I am a woman so you cannot shut me up — unless you have Michael Cohen wire me $130,000.

Thanks to Trump, pink yarn sales are through the roof. After Trump got elected, women started knitting those pussy hats. When I first saw them I was like, “That’s a pussy?” I guess mine just has a lot more yarn on it. Yeah. You should have done more research before you got me to do this.

Yeah. I suspect that whoever invited Wolf to do that gig was cringing.

Press corps dinner
Attendance at the WH press corps dinner

Members of the Trump administration walked out when she made those early remarks. Sarah Suckerbee Handers earned kudos from some in the media for her poise under fire. For example:

Maggie Haberman
@maggieNYT
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

Nonsense! She was ordered to fill in for the AWOL president and sit at the head table. What was she going to do? March off and prove to the world that Trump and his minions have skins as thick as that of an onion? F-’em if they can’t take a joke. (I’ll come back to this tweet in a moment.)

For me, though, one of the iconic scenes was the view of the Washington Hilton ballroom and the crowd of thousands – thousands! The WH press corps is just not that big. Watch one of Suckerbee Handers’ noon-time pressers and guesstimate the number of journalists in the room. You will see what I mean. So who are those people? At least in part, to quote from Pogo, “We have met the enemy and he is us.”

For Sure Not Tom elaborates in response to a post from today’s Blog for Arizona.

Here’s why the MSM is sad. Wolf rightly calls them out on their BS.

“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 covering like 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…

…You guys are obsessed with Trump. Did you used to date him? Because you pretend like 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’s 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 gonna profit off of Trump, you should at least give him some money because he doesn’t have any.”

So the answer is that those in attendance are those who profit from media attention – politicians, corporate execs, lobbyists, all of whom are chummy with each each other and with the reporters who should be seriously worried about the clubbiness of this event.

Yes, Wolf was hard on journalists, but she was right. Bob Lord at Blog for Arizona pens An Open Letter to Michelle Wolf.

I’m one of the millions you inspired with your performance Saturday night.

Whatever you do, please, please, don’t surrender to the attacks. Don’t apologize.

The line drawing the fire, as you know, is your brilliant and courageous comparison of Sarah Huckabee Sanders to Aunt Lydia in the Handmaid’s Tale.

No surprise. The attacks on you are not about impropriety or stepping over the line or being mean. They are about truth spoken to power in a way that, for those in power, was alarmingly dead on. After all, what is Sarah Huckabee Sanders if not a high-level functionary for a corrupt regime, just like Aunt Lydia.

You exposed Sanders as a modern-day brown shirt, just as Colbert once exposed the ineptitude of the Bush administration and Larry Wilmore exposed the brutality of Obama’s drone bombing. On each occasion, the room fell silent. Ugly truth wrapped in humor can be unsettling.

So, when pressed to apologize, respond by saying that you’ll apologize as soon as Sarah Huckabee Sanders apologizes to Jim Comey, Hillary Clinton, and countless others she has smeared at the behest of the wannabe tyrant to whose black hole she has so willingly, eagerly and treacherously hitched her wagon.

Along the same lines, illustrating my unease with the attendance Saturday night, Molly Roberts wrote in the Washington Post about how Michelle Wolf got it just right.

Wolf, according to the commentariat, violated a sacred standard of decency that defines the correspondents’ dinner every year. The comedian should roast people, yes, but she should do it at a suitably low temperature for this town’s all-too-tender egos. Wolf broke protocol by turning on the broiler. Yet the figures she scorched have shattered norms that are far more important than an unspoken prohibition on vagina jokes.

The correspondents’ dinner supposedly celebrates the rapport that journalists have with the people they cover. This three-course fete of access journalism has always made some skeptics queasy, but after the Trump administration’s active attempts to undermine every organization in the room Saturday that doesn’t treat the president as an unassailable dear leader, it’s hard to pretend that the fourth estate and its subjects can carry on a relationship that’s adversarial and respectful all at once.

That persistent chumminess is why Wolf’s performance, in the end, wasn’t really for the press. It was about us. “You guys love breaking news, and you did it,” Wolf said to CNN. “You broke it.” To everyone else, she said: “You helped create this monster, and now you’re profiting off of him.” Instead of listening — to that or to Wolf’s final line, “Flint still doesn’t have clean water” — we got grumpy on Twitter. Which means Wolf did a better job of defending the First Amendment than those who say that’s our business.

Also in the Post, Jonathan Capehart advises readers critical of Wolf to Shut up about Michelle Wolf if you’ve been silent on Trump’s offenses.

As happens after every White House Correspondents’ Association dinner (a.k.a. Nerd Prom), the question is “What did you think?” What did you think of the comedian hired to skewer the president, the press corps and the political class gathered in the Washington Hilton for a dinner that raises money for scholarships, awards and other things done by the WHCA? The query takes on an added urgency when the comedian crosses a line that offends the glittering precious souls in the ballroom.

Michelle Wolf, the former correspondent and writer for Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show With Trevor Noah” whose eponymous special HBO cemented her on the comedic map, didn’t just cross the line. She blithely blew past it like a bank robber through a red light — after plowing through a cement-truck barricade. I’m no shrinking violet. I love a well-executed salty joke wrapped in blue. But Wolf even had me agape and clutching my pearls.

She was a riot!

Like her predecessors, Wolf went after members of the press, the Democratic Party and Trump administration officials. No one was spared. Trump wasn’t there for a second year in a row, which didn’t stop Wolf from taking him down a peg (times infinite). And it didn’t stop Wolf from tearing into the person sitting at the dais in the president’s stead: Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

The press secretary doesn’t engender empathy, what with her complicated relationship with truth and a demeanor at the podium that is a mix of rushed annoyance and condescension. Yet I couldn’t help feel a twinge of OMG as Wolf mercilessly ridiculed Sanders seated just feet away. It was as comfortable as when a comic uses a member of the audience as a punchline punching bag. But that feeling was fleeting. Wolf’s eye-popping routine was simply a comedic reflection of Trump, whose presidential library will overflow with coarse, rude, ugly and personal attacks. It probably won’t mention other things like, oh, being embroiled in a scandal involving hush-money for a porn star that was paid by his personal lawyer who was raided by federal investigators. Trump, his staff and Cabinet emulate his rhetorical disregard for the norms, customs and respect we expect from the presidency.

The criticism of Wolf by Republicans, the press and the public was inevitable. Comes with the job, and some of it I agree with. What makes it galling is that those screaming the loudest about Wolf are mute when it comes to Trump. The former is a comedian hired to tell jokes at a dinner where jokes are traditionally told. The latter is the president of the United States. His words, even the jokes, carry weight. They have real consequences and affect real lives. But we’ve become so used to the garbage that sloshes from his Twitter feed and his presidency that we have grown numb to how it sluices over our collective national psyche.

So, until some of this righteous indignation and moral outrage at Wolf is directed at Trump for his inattention to the Flint water crisis and the devastation in Puerto Rico; his silence on the heroism of James Shaw Jr. and the demands for gun control; his disrespect for the rule of law and his inability to effectively govern without striking fear in the hearts of American families, folks need to shut up about Michelle Wolf.

In the end, we must realize that the flap over Wolf’s routine is not about Wolf at all. It’s about Trump, his character (or lack thereof), his shredding of our norms, his destruction of our government, his behaviors that violate the religious principles of those who forgive him all that.

So take your pick. In this corner is Michelle Wolf. In the other corner is Donald Trump who spent the evening of the press corps dinner doing more damage to the country. Politico.com reported that Trump vilifies ‘dishonest’ press at Michigan rally. As the White House press corps celebrates at an annual dinner in Washington, the president again demonizes the media at a rally in Middle America.

In which corner would you prefer to be?

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