The journalism biz had ink on its face after comedian Michelle Wolf’s hard-to-watch attack on Sarah Huckabee Sanders at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, but there was no apology forthcoming from the organizer.
Margaret Talev, president of the White House Correspondents’ Association, refused Sunday to second-guess her speaker selection after Ms. Wolf reamed the White House press secretary for “lies” and took veiled shots at her appearance.
“What I told you is what I have already told Sarah Sanders, that I speak for myself and the association, and that my interest is in the spirit of unity and in the spirit of serious journalism,” said Ms. Talev on CNN’s “Reliable Sources.”
The Washington Times reports,
Did Ms. Wolf’s anti-Sanders screed promote unity? Maybe not, acknowledged Ms. Talev.
“My interest overwhelmingly was in unifying the country, and I understand that we may have fallen a little bit short on that goal,” said Ms. Talev, Bloomberg’s senior White House reporter. “I hope everyone will allow us to continue to work toward that goal.”
On Sunday evening, Ms. Talev issued a statement that again stopped short of an apology, saying that the program was intended to “offer a unifying message” and not “to divide people.”
“Unfortunately, the entertainer’s monologue was not in the spirit of that mission,” she said.
Ms. Talev added that she and the next WHCA president, Olivier Knox, were “committed to hearing from members on your views on the format of the dinner going forward.”
— WHCA (@whca) April 30, 2018
Her comments appeared jarringly out of touch with the reaction to Ms. Wolf’s routine from conservatives, administration officials and even leading journalists, who spent Sunday evaluating the damage done to the industry at Saturday’s televised dinner.
Howard Kurtz, host of Fox’s “Media Buzz,” said Sunday he had “never seen a performance like that,” adding that “she was not only nasty but she was dropping f-bombs on live television.”
The comedian herself, a contributor to “The Daily Show,” was unrepentant, insisting her Sanders jokes were “about her despicable behavior,” not her looks.
“The question now is whether comedian Michelle Wolf went too far and maybe damaged the journalism profession,” said CNN host Brian Stelter.
A number of prominent media figures — including Ed Henry of Fox News, MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell and Mika Brzezinski, and the [U.K.] Guardian’s David Martosko — called for the WHCA to apologize.
“I think it’s long past time, hours later, for the association to put out a simple, one-sentence statement saying, ‘We do not agree with this,’ these personal, vile attacks on Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who is a good person,” said Mr. Henry on “Media Buzz.”
— HowardKurtz (@HowardKurtz) April 29, 2018
The former WHCA president added, “We invited her to the dinner, we should have treated her with respect.”
The Associated Press’s Meg Kinnard tweeted that the dinner “made the chasm between journalists and those who don’t trust us, even wider.”
Margaret Sullivan, columnist for The Washington Post, upped the ante by calling on journalists to cancel the dinner entirely in a Sunday op-ed headlined, “For the sake of journalism, stop the annual schmoozefest.”
She argued that the dinner “plays right into the hands of President Trump’s press-bashing,” a sentiment echoed by Jonah Goldberg, who said the event has become “an East Coast version of the Oscars.”
“As someone who has dinged President Trump often for his narcissism, the institutional narcissism that was on display last night from the correspondents’ dinner I think was a gift to President Trump,” said Mr. Goldberg on CBS’s “Face the Nation.” “The crudeness toward Sarah Huckabee Sanders was a gift to the White House.”
“The institutional narcissism that was on display last night from the correspondents dinner, I think, was a gift to President Trump,” says @JonahNRO
— Face The Nation (@FaceTheNation) April 29, 2018
The president seconded the sentiment personally on Sunday night, tweeting the event was “an embarrassment to everyone associated with it. The filthy “comedian” totally bombed.”
“Put Dinner to rest, or start over!” Mr. Trump concluded.
The outrage over Ms. Wolf’s routine comes with the public’s trust in the press at what may be an all-time low amid Mr. Trump’s ongoing feud with the media.
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