For years, we heard it called “The Nerd Prom.” It was the night the Washington press corps dressed up in designer gear and got to walk the red carpet before roasting the sitting president and administration. For decades, presidents even joined in the fun and attended the event to poke fun at themselves.
For the last two of these events, current President Donald Trump has refused to play along. On the night of the Nerd Prom the first two years of his presidency, he has chosen to hold campaign-style rallies in the heartland instead.
This has not sat well at all, but for the most part, the Washington press mob has not gone over the top with ridicule and insults. Until now.
Michelle Wolf — and the WHCD — really played into Trump’s hand tonight. Trump is vulgar and mean-spirited, but that doesn’t mean that Wolf needed to be the same.
— Stuart Rothenberg (@StuPolitics) April 29, 2018
In 2018, the headlining act was a female comedian by the name of Michelle Wolf. She spoke for twenty minutes and received abysmal reviews for a profanity-laced rant that insulted many people and jokes about the president that fell flat even among media types who hate him.
Chatter online among journalists and some in the administration’s orbit after the event was full of criticism for comedian Michelle Wolf, who was the evening’s headliner; criticism and soul-searching about the annual event itself; and an effort by former White House press secretary Sean Spicer to pressure the leadership of the White House Correspondents’ Association into answering for Wolf’s vulgar, personal jabs leveled primarily at the president and his inner circle.
The comedian spoke for roughly 20 minutes to a ballroom full of Washington’s top journalists and political operatives. As the Washington Post’s Paul Farhi wrote, Wolf’s remarks “swerved from raunchy to downright nasty.”
“She was particularly hard on the women associated with Trump,” Farhi wrote, adding “several cracks about [White House press secretary] Sarah Huckabee Sanders landed poorly.”… And Politico said Wolf’s performance “was a risque and uneven routine at first met with laughs but often greeted by awkward silence.”
The entire episode was so bad, some conservative members of the press corps actually got up and left the event. It was open season on conservatives and it simply was not appreciated. Former White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer even called the event a disgrace.
While Washington, Michigan, was a big success, Washington, D.C., 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.” @greggutfeld should host next year! @PeteHegseth
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 29, 2018
Current White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, in particular, was singled out for ridicule. Her stoicism was noted even by those who disagree with her, and words of praise from New York Times and Washington Post reporters were posted on Twitter.
“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,” tweeted Maggie Haberman of The New York Times. (Haberman said on Twitter that she did not attend the event in person but had watched it on TV.)
“Lots of critics but she has always been decent and professional to me — if not entirely forthcoming,” The Washington Post’s Josh Dawsey posted on Twitter about Sanders, attaching Haberman’s tweet about the Trump spokeswoman.
What is very obvious about the 2018 Washington Press Corps Dinner is that the headlining act went entirely too far even for the reporters who regularly slam the Trump Administration. It also makes President Trump look like a genius for skipping the event. Again.
— Sean Spicer (@seanspicer) April 29, 2018
Let’s just hope “comedian” Wolf gets the Kathy Griffin treatment and can’t find work.