If you happened to tune into the White House Correspondents' Dinner (WHCD) on April 28, or have been on the Internet at all since, then you've probably seen comedian Michelle Wolf's scathing monologue. Personally, I'm all about it, but some people don't feel the same. Because of the recent backlash, the White House Correspondents' Dinner might get revamped after Wolf's speech.
Daily Show alum Wolf did not hold back as she served up some rather heated jokes pointed at... well nearly everyone in the room (and also not in the room, looking at you, Donald Trump). In wake of Wolf's monologue, Olivier Knox, the incoming president of the White House Correspondents Association (WHCA), told CNN on April 30 that the WHCD may have to be changed in some way.
Knox said he believes there's a discussion to be had about making some changes to the annual black-tie event, and that he would like to see the WHCD go back to being "boring," and just focus on the journalists. Knox told CNN,
As somebody who has said for a very long time that the dinner should be ‘boring,’ that is to say focused on journalists and the work of good reporters, I am very open to suggestions about how to change it.
According to CNN, Knox definitely wants to keep the WHCD around, but is thinking about changing the format. He said,
“My goal is for the center of gravity of the dinner to be reporters — not the president, not the comic,” Knox said. According to CNN, some ideas being tossed around (both within the organization and by outsiders) are inviting comedians in pairs, changing the entertainment to a singer, or even getting rid of the entertainment altogether.
The comments also come a day after the WCHA distanced itself from the jokes told by host Michelle Wolf in an unprecedented statement from current president Margaret Talev. "Last night's program was meant to offer a unifying message about our common commitment to a vigorous and free press while honoring civility," the statement read in part. "Unfortunately, the entertainer's monologue was not in the spirit of that mission."
The statement and the push to remove the entertainment portion of the evening comes after Wolf received a lot of backlash for her WHCD speech. The majority of that negative attention pointed at her jokes about White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, especially the one about her "smoky eye." Wolf said,
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. Maybe she’s born with it, maybe it’s lies. It’s probably lies.
Right away the internet — including some big media names like The New York Times White House Correspondent Maggie Haberman — went after Wolf for making fun of Sanders' appearance. Although, if you look at the joke carefully it actually has nothing to do with her appearance and a lot to with her job in the White House, which mostly consists of fending off reporters.
Wolf didn't miss a beat responding, though. She stood by what she said and tweeted out a response on April 29, explaining how she was joking about Sanders' behavior and not her looks. Wolf tweeted,
Hey mags! All these jokes were about her despicable behavior. Sounds like you have some thoughts about her looks though?
Even after all of the backlash, Wolf stands by what she said at the WHCD. In an interview with NPR set to air Tuesday, May 1, Wolf told Terry Gross, “I wouldn’t change a single word that I said. I’m very happy with what I said, and I’m glad I stuck to my guns.”
Wolf also pointed out that she actually did poke fun at Chris Christie and Mitch McConnell's appearance during her monologue, yet no one is up in arms about that. She told NPR,
Yeah. If there are two people that I actually made fun of their looks on Saturday it was Mitch McConnell and Chris Christie and no one is jumping to their defense. I made fun of Mitch McConnell’s neck and I did a small jab at Chris Christie’s weight and no one is jumping to their defense.
That's actually something I noticed right away. I guess it only counts when society can pin two women against each other and watch a fight unfold? I am not at all here for it.
The truth is, Wolf's monologue was definitely brutal and didn’t hold back any punches. But, that's what she was there to do. She's a comedian, that's her job. Maybe, instead of banning comedians from the WHCD, we should be thinking a little more about all the real-life material she had to pull from.