The comedian was scathing about Trump’s press secretary and his daughter Ivanka in a performance dubbed ‘disgusting’ by Sean Spicer
- ‘They hate your guts’: Trump attacks media at Michigan rally
- The comedian Michelle Wolf stunned guests at a prestigious media dinner in Washington with a risque speech that eviscerated members of Donald Trump’s administration, some of whom were in the room.
- Sean Spicer, the former White House press secretary, told the Guardian he thought the performance was “absolutely disgusting”, but others praised Wolf for pulling no punches about the president and his aides.
- She drew gasps from some in the 3,000-strong audience at the Hilton hotel when she turned her fire on Spicer’s successor, Sarah Sanders, sitting just a few feet away at the head table.
“Every time Sarah steps up to the podium, I get excited,” the comedian said. “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” – a reference to a CNN correspondent who has clashed with Sanders.
Wolf continued: “I actually really like Sarah. I think she’s very resourceful. But she burns facts and then she uses that ash to create a perfect smokey eye. Like maybe she’s born with it, maybe it’s lies. It’s probably lies.”
Sanders looked stony faced and there were both laughs and groans. But Wolf was not done: “I’m never really sure what to call Sarah Huckabee Sanders. Is it Sarah Sanders, is it Sarah Huckabee Sanders, is it Cousin Huckabee, is it Aunt Huckabee Sanders? What’s Uncle Tom but for white women who disappoint other white women? Ah I Know, Aunt Coulter” – referring to the rightwing pundit Ann Coulter.
The White House Correspondents’ Association dinner is held annually but for the second year running Trump was absent, using a campaign rally to criticise journalists. Wolf, best known for her HBO standup special Nice Lady and cameos on The Daily Show, is not the first comedian to provoke controversy at the event. Larry Wilmore provoked anger in 2016 when he used the N-word.
Wolf started as she meant to go on in a 20-minute monologue peppered with sexual references. “Like a porn star says when she’s about to have sex with a Trump, let’s get this over with,” she said. Nodding to the case of adult film actor Stormy Daniels, who claims she had a sexual encounter with Trump, she said: “It’s 2018 and I am a woman so you cannot shut me up. Unless you have Michael Cohen wire me $130,000.” Cohen is Trump’s lawyer.
Noting the president’s no show, the comedian said: “I would drag him here myself, but it turns out that 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.”
Wolf also excoriated Trump’s daughter and senior adviser, Ivanka. “She was supposed to be an advocate for women, but it turns out she’s about as helpful to women as an empty box of tampons. She’s done nothing to satisfy women. So I guess, like father like daughter.”
- As the audience muttered, Wolf chided: “Oh, you don’t think he’s good in bed. Come on.” She went on: “She does clean up nice, though. Ivanka cleans up nice. She’s the diaper genie of the administration. On the outside she looks sleek, but the inside, it’s still full of shit.”
For some it was an excruciating, toe-curling experience. Conservatives were aghast when Wolf turned to the subject of abortion. She said of vice-president Mike Pence: “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 gotta get that baby out of there. And yeah, sure, you can groan all you want, I know a lot of you are very anti-abortion, you know, unless it’s the one you got for your secret mistress.”
White House counsellor Kellyanne Conway, who was among the guests, did not escape the scathing humour. “Man, she has the perfect name for what she does. Conway. It’s like if my last name was Michelle tells-jokes-frizzy-hair-small-tits.
“You guys have to stop putting Kellyanne on your shows. All she does is lie. If you don’t give her a platform, she has nowhere to lie. If a tree falls in the woods, how do we get Kellyanne under that tree? I’m not suggesting she gets hurt. Just stuck. Stuck under a tree.”
The speech polarised conservatives and liberals in an already divided political landscape. In an interview with the Guardian, Spicer, who quit as press secretary last summer, was visibly angry as he said: “It was absolutely disgusting. The idea that people clapped at that. It’s one thing to celebrate the first amendment but that, tonight, was one of the most disgusting and deplorable things I’ve ever heard in my life. The language, the references were way over the line.
“There’s a lot of people on that dais from the media that need to answer for that. The White House Correspondents’ Association needs to answer for that. That was disgusting. The idea that viewers at home listened to that. I think they have a very distorted view for what the first amendment’s all about. There are a lot of reporters on that dais that brought her here that should answer for that.”
Spicer also commented on Twitter: “Tonight’s #WHCD was a disgrace.” Wolf tweeted back: “Thank you!”
- Sanders and Conway declined to comment, but Mercedes Schlapp, an assistant to the president, tweeted: “Completely appalled by the so called and twisted comedian at the #WHCA dinner who attacked @SarahHuckabee.”
Maggie Haberman, White House correspondent of the New York Times, tweeted: “That @PressSec sat and absorbed intense criticism of her physical appearance, her job performance, and so forth, instead of walking out, on national television, was impressive.”
One Democratic congressman told the Guardian he found Wolf’s speech “crass” and “vulgar”, but another defended her, observing: “What, Trump is president but suddenly there are boundaries now?”
And Ryan Knight, co-founder and director of engagement at the pro-Democratic group Build the Wave, tweeted: “Michelle Wolf brought the raw, unfiltered TRUTH tonight to the White House Correspondents’ Dinner. Sarah Huckabee Sanders couldn’t handle it, Trump supporters are crying about it and I freaking loved it.”
On Sunday morning, Trump issued a restrained response, tweeting that while his rally in “Washington [Township], Michigan, was a big success, Washington, DC, just didn’t work. Everyone is talking about the fact that the White House Correspondents Dinner was a very big, boring bust…the so-called comedian really “bombed.” [Fox News host Greg Gutfeld] should host next year!”
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