The 2018 White House Correspondents' Dinner (WHCD) took place in Washington D.C. on Saturday, April 28. The annual affair is usually hosted by a comedian who is tasked with providing some roast-style comedy to a room filled with journalists, reporters, and some Washington politicians. This year's host was comedian Michelle Wolf, and she did her due diligence to humorously criticize President Trump. But the presidential quips actually didn't ruffle as many feathers as some of Wolf's other jokes, particularly one that took aim at the current White House Press Secretary. Michelle Wolf's joke about Sarah Huckabee Sanders has Twitter completely divided about how to feel about it.
Sanders represented the Trump administration at Saturday night's dinner after President Trump announced that he would skip the WHCD for the second year in a row, according to a statement from the White House Correspondents' Association (WHCA) on April 6. While President Trump opted out of Saturday night's event for a rally in Washington, Michigan, Sanders sat as the administration's representative on the dais in the ballroom of the Washington Hilton Hotel in Washington D.C., per IndieWire. And Wolf did not pull punches when it came to roasting the current politics of the day, including the press secretary herself.
Wolf said of Sanders, "I actually really like Sarah. I think she’s very resourceful," which she jokingly followed up with, "She burns facts and then she uses that ash to create a perfect smoky eye. Maybe she’s born with it, maybe it’s lies. It’s probably lies."
When Wolf took aim at Sanders in her act, the comedian's reception in the room seemed less than welcoming. When the camera cut to Sanders, the White House Press Secretary didn't appear to crack any kind of smile to indicate she enjoyed the ribbing.
Wolf had earlier said she said she was "starstruck" to meet the White House Press Secretary, Wolf joked to Sanders, "I love you as Aunt Lydia in The Handmaid's Tale." In the Hulu series, Aunt Lydia is tasked with indoctrinating the women in a newly installed totalitarian theocracy.
It is clear from the responses to the jokes on Twitter that there is not a general consensus of whether or not the jokes were appropriate for the night — in short, people are really torn.
Maggie Haberman, a White House correspondent for The New York Times, didn't think Wolf's jokes were anything more than criticism of Sanders' appearance. Haberman tweeted in support of Sanders on Saturday night, and she called the Press Secretary "impressive" for having "absorbed intense criticism of her physical appearance, her job performance, and so forth, instead of walking out."
MSNBC's Morning Joe co-host, Mika Brzezinski, also wanted the comedy routine to "leave looks out of it." She also acknowledged in a tweet on Sunday morning that, "Women who use their government positions to spread lies and misinformation deserve to face the same criticism as men." Even so, Brzezinski said that watching Wolf's jokes made her "hurt for Sarah."
The president of the WHCA, Margaret Talev, acknowledged to Politico that some of Wolf's jokes missed the mark for her. Talev said, "Some of them made me uncomfortable and did not embody the spirit of the night ... I appreciated Sarah Sanders for joining us at the head table and her grace through the program."
Another supporter of Sanders included former Trump White House Press Secretary, Anthony Scaramucci. He tweeted that Sanders "is a role model for handling nonsense and snark."
There is a heated debate about whether or not the jokes were aimed at Sanders' appearance. Many people came to Wolf's defense and explained that the punchline of the jokes were pointing out the Trump White House's tendency to lie, rather than criticizing Sanders' appearance.
Comedian, actor, and director Kumail Nanjiani replied to Haberman's tweet and with a tweet of his own on Saturday night. He seemingly referred to Wolf's jokes as when "someone calls them out on what they do," and he questioned why that makes them "heroes for not walking out."
Some people really thought Sanders' part in furthering lies at the podium put her in the position to receive such harsh criticism.
Actor, writer, and director Rob Reiner tweeted about his experience at the WHCD. He seemed to take the stance that the president has said similarly harsh things about others, but the difference between Trump and Wolf, according to Reiner's tweet, is that, "She's joking. He's not."
Emily Nussbaum, a TV critic for The New Yorker, tweeted about Wolf's jokes on Sunday morning. She cited the absence of words like "bimbo or dog" in Wolf's jokes, and Nussbaum said in her tweet, "...Wolf did such a harsh act WITHOUT insulting any woman's looks."
Wolf also replied to the criticism in Haberman's tweet, and she explained how the "jokes were about her despicable behavior."
Following Wolf's gig at the WHCD on Saturday, it's clear there are a couple schools of thought on the respectability of her act.
Wolf also opened the night by alluding to the alleged 2006 affair between Trump and porn star Stormy Daniels when she said, "Like a porn star says when she's about to have sex with a Trump, 'Let's get this over with.'" (Trump has denied the affair.)
Sanders and Trump weren't the only people on Wolf's list when it came down to joke time. She also burned Congress in the beginning when she said, "I'm here to make jokes, I'm not here to get anything accomplished. So members of Congress should feel right at home," and Wolf journeyed back to the 2016 presidential election when she made a Hillary Clinton joke. Wolf quipped, "It is kind of crazy that the Trump campaign was in touch with Russia when the Hillary campaign wasn't even in touch with Michigan."
President Trump tweeted about the WHCD on Sunday morning, and he called it "a very big, boring bust..." He also called Wolf a "so-called comedian" who "really 'bombed.'" Trump didn't have any specific mention of Sanders in his tweet.
Although Trump wasn't in attendance on Saturday night, he did offer up a suggestion for next year's emcee — Fox News host Greg Gutfeld. I guess you'll have to wait until next year's WHCD to see if they take the president up on his recommendation. Although, I'm sure you can always count on Twitter for reaction to the night, no matter who is at the helm.