U.S. President Donald Trump is assailing the White House correspondents’ annual dinner celebrating the country’s free speech guarantees after a comedian performing at the affair unleashed a string of barbed jokes aimed at Trump and his aides.
Trump skipped last Saturday’s black-tie event at a Washington hotel for the second year in a row in favor of holding a political rally with his supporters in Michigan. But since then, he has railed against one of his favorite targets — the journalists who cover his presidency on a daily basis.
This time, some of the reporters apologized for the acerbic humor of comedian Michelle Wolf, saying the jokes exceeded the unwritten boundaries of such political gatherings. But Trump took to Twitter Monday to declare the dinner “dead.”
Earlier, he said last year’s dinner was “a failure.”
In a 19-minute string of at times raunchy jokes, Wolf skewered Trump for his alleged 2006 affair with an adult film actress and a hush money payment to keep her quiet before the 2016 election.
She also minimized the size of Trump’s vast wealth, poked fun at the high turnover of his key appointments that has consumed the first 15 months of his presidency, and impugned his prowess in the bedroom.
But it was Wolf’s attack on the daily press briefings by Trump spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders that drew the most post-dinner comment. Some reporters said Wolf crossed the lines of civility and apologized to Sanders afterward.
Sanders, seated on the dais a couple of chairs away from Wolf, sat unsmiling through the comedian’s biting humor aimed at her, but did not walk out as did a pair of husband-and-wife conservative Trump supporters offended by Wolf’s humor.
In one joke, the 32-year-old Wolf said of Sanders, “She burns facts, and then she uses that ash to create a perfect smoky eye.”
In another, Wolf described Sanders as an “Uncle Tom, but for white women who disappoint other white women,” a derogatory term originating in a 19th century novel depicting an extremely loyal enslaved black man.
As the tumult over Wolf’s jokes mushroomed, Margaret Talev, a Bloomberg News White House correspondent who contracted Wolf for the dinner, issued a White House Correspondents’ Association statement.
The dinner, it said, “was meant to offer a unifying message about our common commitment to a vigorous and free press while honoring civility, great reporting and scholarship winners, not to divide people. Unfortunately, the entertainer’s monologue was not in the spirit of that mission.”
As criticism mounted, Wolf defended her routine.
“All these jokes were about her despicable behavior,” the comedian said on Twitter.
And then Wolf posted a picture of herself, captioned, “Not in the spirit of the mission.”