Monday, April 30, 2018

The Wolf Who Came as a Wolf

The Editorial Board | The Wall Street Journal

Comedian Michelle Wolf performs at the White House Correspondents' Association dinner in Washington, April 28, 2018. 
Photo: aaron p. bernstein/Reuters

The anti-Trump comic gave the media what she thought they wanted.

The Beltway media brigades held their annual night of industry awards and partying on Saturday, but this year’s event is notable for triggering some buyer’s remorse.

The White House Correspondents’ Association typically hires a comedian as entertainment. This year it was Michelle Wolf, formerly of Comedy Central. Ms. Wolf unleashed such a torrent of nasty gibes and vulgar jokes about Republicans and Donald Trump that even the anti-Republican, anti-Trump crowd had second thoughts.

Peter Funt describes nearby some of the unfunny bits, and Ms. Wolf was especially vicious to White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who was seated on the dais. In an act of remarkable discipline, Ms. Sanders listened in stoic silence without walking out.

The performance had media elites professing shock at Ms. Wolf’s excesses. “Media hands Trump big, embarrassing win,” wrote Mike Allen, whose morning newsletter broadcasts the conventional Washington wisdom.

There were many similar sentiments on Twitter .

Yet what did they expect? Michelle Wolf merely gave them what she no doubt assumed, with ample reason, the correspondents wanted. She comes from a network and recent style of comedy that specialize in attacking the politics and values of half the country.

Much—not all—of the press corps has responded to Donald Trump’s surprising victory not by trying to understand it, much less report on it with any balance. Instead they have treated it like an alien invasion that must be repelled, and anyone associated with it as deserving disdain, ridicule or worse.

Any reporter who doesn’t follow this herd of contempt is expelled from polite media company. Ms. Wolf was merely putting a cruder face on what she reads every day.

All of which plays into the hands of Mr. Trump, who didn’t attend the event but did indulge in some Twitter gloating afterward. On a trip to Michigan on Saturday night, Mr. Trump also rolled out his typical and nasty attack lines about the press. If reporters want to know why millions of Americans believe him, look in the mirror of Saturday night.


A Vicious Wolf Gives Trump the Last Laugh

By Peter Funt | The Wall Street Journal

Comedian Michelle Wolf at the White House Correspondents' Association dinner in Washington, April 28. 
Photo: aaron p. bernstein/Reuters

‘She had some great one-liners,’ Douglas Brinkley said on CNN. He changed his mind.

No matter how you feel about Donald Trump or the Washington-based journalists who cover him, you should be angered by what was offered Saturday as entertainment at the annual White House Correspondents’ Association dinner.

Michelle Wolf, recently of Comedy Central and soon to have her own series on Netflix , was foul-mouthed about Mr. Trump and downright cruel about members of his administration, several of whom were in the room. Worse, though it proved to be beside the point, she wasn’t funny.

“Trump is so broke,” she quipped, that “Southwest used him as one of their engines.”

She called Vice President Mike Pence a “weirdo”: “He thinks abortion is murder, which, first of all, don’t knock it till you try it. And when you do try it, really knock it. You know, you got to get that baby out of there.”

Ms. Wolf’s material—most of which was laced with too much profanity to print here—wasn’t about the First Amendment, as some suggested. Nor was it about the #MeToo movement, which she attempted at one point to hide behind. It was simply a Saturday Night Massacre of dignity and common sense.

It helped prove two unfortunate truths: First, the notion of having working journalists dress up for “nerd prom,” as they call it, and fawn over celebrity guests while listening to a hired comic roast the officials they cover each day was never a good idea. Now, in the freewheeling age of social media, it’s completely bankrupt.

Second, Mr. Trump was right to skip the event. No reasonable person, even among his harshest critics, would have expected him to sit through this.

On Twitter the next morning, Mr. Trump called it a “big, boring bust.” He was too kind. The event has given Mr. Trump’s supporters more ammunition to use in what is essentially an unreasonable attack on “fake news” and “mainstream media.”

Many pundits were as conflicted about Ms. Wolf’s act as they are about how to cover the Trump administration, as CNN’s instant analysis following the event proved. Historian Douglas Brinkley immediately said, “She had some great one-liners.”

About 20 minutes later, he retreated to: “She has the right to say what she did.” After an hour’s reflection, Mr. Brinkley concluded: “The dinner is broken. I think it needs to be reimagined next year.”

Through this misguided event, the Correspondents’ Association has given Donald Trump what he wants most: the last laugh.

Mr. Funt is a writer and host of “Candid Camera.”