Mike McGraw/Creative Commons Comedian, Michelle Wolf at SXSW in 2016.
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At the annual White House Correspondents’ Association (WHCA) dinner, Michelle Wolf both intrigued and disgusted audience members, causing controversy that put her name on the map, a technique Trump  used to become the President of the United States.

Comedy routines at the WHCA dinner have evolved into roasts, to the chagrin of some attendees. It’s not 1944 anymore, when FDR claimed the dinners could boost the morale of troops fighting in the war. Now feather-ruffling political commentary and criticism is a standard in comedic entertainment. Talk-show comedians can’t be too detached and uncritical or they risk losing viewers, like Jimmy Fallon did in 2017 after his fluff interview with Trump. “You can’t be neutral on a moving train,” Howard Zinn says, meaning you can either be a complicit passenger or try to change the train’s direction; agree or disagree, there is no neutrality.

Although Margaret Talev, the WHCA president wanted the theme of the dinner to be one of unification, I could not have sat through a comedy routine normalizing the unprecedented actions of this administration. In other words, I didn’t want to be encouraged to be a complicit passenger. Wolf’s fearless analysis of hypocrisy made people uncomfortable because it was truthful.

Wolf’s Moments of Comedy Gold at the WHCA Dinner:

  1. When she called out the media from profiting off of Trump, which he thinks will win him the 2020 election.

‘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. If you’re going to profit off of Trump, you should at least give him some money, because he doesn’t have any.’

  1. When she used Trump’s language against him. And his objectification of women to objectify him.

‘Of course, Trump isn’t here, if you haven’t noticed, he’s not here. And I know, I know, I would drag him here myself, but it turns out the president of the United States is the one pussy you’re not allowed to grab. He said it first, yeah he did. You remember? Good.’

  1. When she had the audience participate in a call-and-answer type of game to build up to a punchline in which she reminded everyone that Trump is threatening the end of the republic, which is not a fun game.

‘Trump is so broke he had to borrow money from the Russians and now he’s compromised and susceptible to blackmail and possibly responsible for the collapse of the Republic. Yay, it’s a fun game!’

  1. When she snuck in quickly that Flint, Michigan still doesn’t have clean water, just before the audience broke into applause. Her point: Trump’s sex scandals make headlines and Flint is an afterthought. We’re not paying attention to the important things.

Goodnight. Flint still doesn’t have clean water.

Criticism:

Fox News has been dedicated to developing a divide between feminists and conservative women, previously attacking feminist stars for focusing on Sanders’ clothing choices. Now Fox is framing Wolf as the hypocritical feminist. In an interview with Fox News, Mercedes Schlapp, the White House Director of Strategic Communications as of 2017 said she had a problem with Michelle Wolf’s focus on Sarah Sanders’ appearances and found it “offensive” that Wolf, a woman, was going after another intelligent woman.

First, Fox News, stop framing this as if you put women above the promotion of the Republican Party. Why were you so quiet when Trump was objectifying any woman in his path? (Here’s a hefty compilation of Trump’s transgressions against women in case you needed reminding.) Wolf’s jokes next to Trump’s are practically polite.

Second, Schlapp, women should not spare other women criticism if they don’t agree with their stances. Feminism is about empowering women to form and value their own voice.

Wolf tweeted that her jokes were not about Sanders’ appearance, but “about her despicable behavior.” Many journalists fixated on Wolf’s bit on Sanders. Maggie Haberman of the New York Times commended Sanders for taking the “intense criticism” instead of walking out. Former WHCA president Ed Henry said he wants the administration to apologize to Sanders. I think this hoopla is incredibly ill-founded. Let’s analyze all that was said about Sanders.

  1.  We are graced with Sarah’s presence tonight. I have to say I’m a little star-struck. I love you as Aunt Lydia in The Handmaid’s Tale.

Hulu’s popular adaptation of the novel did cast an actress that has the same square-shaped face and severe demeanor as Sanders. But that’s not the point. The character Aunt Lydia acts as an agent of a “Republic that is organized around the systematic repression of all women.” Sanders acts as an agent of Trump’s administration. If you need proof that Trump’s administration is also organized around the systemic repression of all women, read this.

  1.  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 bitch, Jim Acosta!”

Wolf is justified in calling Sanders a liar. According to the Washington Post, Trump has made 3,001 false or misleading claims. As a press secretary, she is put in a difficult position to deflect assertions and obfuscate the truth. Check out some of her lies in her file on Politifact.  The softball game reference played into a light hearted joke about the unpredictable nature of press conferences.

  1. I actually really like Sarah. I think she’s very resourceful. She burns facts, and then she uses that ash to create a perfect smoky eye. Like maybe she’s born with it, maybe it’s lies. It’s probably lies.

A compliment about Sander’s smokey eye and a joke about how she uses the ashes from burned facts to create it.

  1. And I’m never really sure what to call Sarah Huckabee Sanders, you know? Is it Sarah Sanders, is it 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.

Sanders has defended Trump against allegations of misogyny and sexism. However, the majority of white women voted for Trump so Sanders is actually not disappointing other white women. This joke misses the mark a bit.

It was perplexing to me that reporters like Maggie Haberman from the New York Times were shocked Wolf could criticize Sanders when she was less than 10 feet away. Sanders is a public servant in country with representative democracy. Her power comes from the people; she doesn’t sit on a throne above them.

Wolf told the media what they didn’t want to hear. Trump tweeted that the WHCA Dinner “is DEAD as we know it,” but I think Wolf brought the dinner to LIFE by opening people’s eyes about the absurdity of this administration’s hypocrisy instead of keeping them closed for the sake of unity.

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