In an attempt to rationalize the crude and offensive performance by comedian Michelle Wolf at Saturday’s White House Correspondents’ Dinner, on Monday, co-host Savannah Guthrie led off NBC’s Today show by noting that “the performer’s defenders say the President has said much worse.”
“Over the line? The backlash is fierce over a comedian’s monologue at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner. Did it go too far?...President Trump firing back overnight, while the performer’s defenders say the President has said much worse,” Guthrie proclaimed at the top of the show.
In the report that followed, correspondent Peter Alexander claimed that Wolf’s nasty performance was “igniting a fierce debate about where to draw the line under a president who’s faced sharp criticism of his own for his language and personal attacks.” Later, after noting that “Wolf sparked outrage with her blistering routine” which “many viewed as crude and mean,” the reporter still tried to blame Trump: “Taking aim at a presidency many have criticized for the same thing.”
Despite such attempts to justify Wolf’s behavior, the segment did note that “the comedian’s jokes have been criticized by guests on both sides of the aisle” and that even the White House Correspondents’ Association itself lamented that “the entertainer’s monologue was not in the spirit” of the organization’s mission.
Near the end of the report, Alexander seemed to suggest that journalists were the real victims of the night: “Many prominent journalists among those offended, some calling for an apology. Even though one of the toughest shots was reserved for them.” A clip then ran of Wolf simply making an accurate observation about the press:
You guys are obsessed with Trump. Did you use to date him? Because you pretend like you hate him, but I think you love him. He’s helped you sell your papers, and your books, and your TV. You helped create this monster and now you’re profiting off of him.
A Media Research Center study examining network news coverage of the President’s first year in office clearly demonstrated that obsession.
In the 9:00 a.m. ET hour, Today show anchor Megyn Kelly followed Alexander’s lead in trying to shift blame from Wolf to Trump. As correspondents Kate Snow and Stephanie Gosk condemned the left-wing comedian’s performance as evidence of “the level of vitriol in this country” and how “we are ripping ourselves apart,” Kelly chimed in: “And it must be said, Trump contributes to that.”
The host continued: “His supporters who defend his use of the p-word, you know, p-blank-blank-ends-in-y on the trail, are now, some of them are horrified that this comedienne said it. It’s like, alright, you can’t have it both ways.”
To her credit, though, she added: “But I would submit we should all have it the same way, which is to have civility.”
Gosk fretted: “It’s happening online, it’s happening on the dais, it’s behind the presidential seal. It is happening across our society, and we all have to stand up and say, ‘We’re fed up with it.’”
Snow admitted that she was never a fan of the Correspondents’ Dinner: “It was always kind of awkward and uncomfortable for the journalists because we’re journalists, and we’re sitting in this audience. I don’t know, I would not have wanted to be in that room on Saturday.” Kelly replied: “Me neither.”
Even as people across the political spectrum, including many in the media, are denouncing Wolf for her vile attacks on the White House staff, NBC still found it necessary to use the controversy as a chance to bash Trump.
Here is a full transcript of Alexander’s April 30 report:
7:05 AM ET
HODA KOTB: Now to the talk of Washington and beyond, this weekend’s White House Correspondents’ Dinner. The comedian’s jokes have been criticized by guests on both sides of the aisle and the President, who wasn’t in the room. Now the group behind that yearly event is weighing in. NBC National Correspondent Peter Alexander has it all covered for us this morning. Hey, Peter, good morning.
PETER ALEXANDER: Hey, Hoda, good morning to you. This was a night intended to celebrate the First Amendment, but this morning, it is the evening’s entertainment that still has plenty of people talking. The spirit of the Correspondents Dinner each year had always been jokes that singe, but don’t burn. But this year, the comedy is igniting a fierce debate about where to draw the line under a president who’s faced sharp criticism of his own for his language and personal attacks.
[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Comedian Under Fire; Group Says “Not in Spirit” of Mission Amid Trump Tweet]
Overnight, President Trump calling for an end to the White House Correspondents’ Dinner after a controversial roast by comedian Michelle Wolf, taking aim at the President and some of his closest staff. “The White House Correspondents’ Dinner was a failure last year, but this year was an embarrassment to everyone associated with it,” the President tweeted. “The filthy “comedian” totally bombed. Put dinner to rest or start over.”
The White House Correspondents’ Association releasing a statement, that read in part, “Last night’s program was meant to offer a unifying message about our common commitment to a vigorous and free press while honoring civility, great reporting and scholarship winners, not to divide people. Unfortunately, the entertainer’s monologue was not in the spirit of that mission.”
On Saturday night, the President delivering his own counter-programming.
DONALD TRUMP: Is this better than that phony Washington White House Correspondents Dinner? [Cheers and applause]
ALEXANDER: Again, skipping the black-tie gala in favor of a pro-Trump rally.
TRUMP: I’d much rather be in Washington, Michigan than in Washington, D.C. right now. That I can tell you. [Cheers and applause]
ALEXANDER: While in Washington, comedian Michelle Wolf sparked outrage with her blistering routine.
MICHELLE WOLF: Should have done more research before you got me to do this.
ALEXANDER: Comedy that many viewed as crude and mean. Taking aim at a presidency many have criticized for the same thing. This personal jab at White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders seated on stage.
WOLF: I think she’s very resourceful. Like, she burns facts and then uses that ash to create a perfect smoky eye. Like, maybe she’s born with it, maybe it’s lies.
ALEXANDER: Calling Kellyanne Conway a liar, too.
WOLF: All she does is lie. If you don’t give her a platform she has nowhere to lie. It’s like that old saying, if a tree falls in the woods, how do we get Kellyanne under that tree?
ALEXANDER: A White House communications director walking out, former Press Secretary Sean Spicer calling it “a disgrace.” Many prominent journalists among those offended, some calling for an apology. Even though one of the toughest shots was reserved for them.
WOLF: You guys are obsessed with Trump. Did you use to date him? Because you pretend like you hate him, but I think you love him. He’s helped you sell your papers, and your books, and your TV. You helped create this monster and now you’re profiting off of him.
ALEXANDER: There has been a lot of conversation about whether the dinner should focus exclusively on journalism, make it an award show for those journalists who risk and even sacrifice their lives around the world. The Correspondents’ Association president says that she and the incoming president are, quote, “committed to hearing from its members of the dinner’s format going forward.” Savannah and Hoda?
KOTB: Alright, Peter Alexander. Peter at the White House, thanks.
Here is a full transcript of the April 30 discussion on Megyn Kelly Today:
9:10 AM ET
MEGYN KELLY: The White House Correspondents’ Dinner. I can’t stand this event.
KATE SNOW: Another really easy topic, thanks.
KELLY: This one is easy. How is this hard? They had a crass comedienne go out there and rip Sarah Huckabee Sanders to shreds, feet away from the woman while she was sitting there. Compared her to the woman from Handmaid’s Tale, Aunt Lydia. Do you watch that? Aunt Lydia’s a horrid, horrid. Here’s a little bit of Michelle Wolf, the comedian.
MICHELLE WOLF: I actually really like Sarah. I think she’s very resourceful. Like, she burns facts and then she uses that ash to create a perfect smoky eye. Like, maybe she’s born with it, maybe it’s lies. It’s probably lies. And I’m never really sure what to call Sarah Huckabee Sanders. Like, what’s Uncle Tom, but for white women who disappoint other white women?
KELLY: So she’s an Uncle Tom because she speaks President Trump, who the country put in office, and gets attacked personally.
STEPHANIE GOSK: Can I just say, in listening to this, I mean, I don’t know how you guys feel, but I sort of feel like on a daily basis there is – I’m being roasted by some offensive, inappropriate comment by somebody. Right? And there are a lot of Twitter responses that said, “God, it has to have been difficult for Sarah Huckabee Sanders to sit there and listen to that.” Hello! That is like a Tuesday for Sarah Huckabee Sanders. She gets that every single day, and not only is she criticized for her work, and she should be, you can be if you’re in a position like that, it is personal, and it is nasty. It is reflective of the society, this country that we are living in today, and I find it at once deeply upsetting and incredibly exhausting. [Applause]
SNOW: And we’re all mothers sitting up here.
SNOW: And as a mom, I mean – I agree with you 100% as mom, the level of vitriol in this country is, is hard.
GOSK: We are ripping ourselves apart.
SNOW: We are.
KELLY: And it must be said, Trump contributes to that.
SNOW: Everybody contributes to that.
KELLY: His supporters who defend his use of the p-word, you know, p-blank-blank-ends-in-y on the trail, are now, some of them are horrified that this comedienne said it. It’s like, alright, you can’t have it both ways. But I would submit we should all have it the same way, which is to have civility.
GOSK: It’s happening online, it’s happening on the dais, it’s behind the presidential seal. It is happening across our society, and we all have to stand up and say, “We’re fed up with it.”
SNOW: Here’s the thing about the White House Correspondents’ Dinner – [Applause]
KELLY: Nerd prom.
SNOW: Nerd prom. I started – I mean, I’ve been at this for a while, we’ve been at this for a while. I went, I think 18 years ago, was my first nerd prom, which was when George W. Bush was in office. I was working as a Capitol Hill correspondent for a different network, for CNN. I lived in Washington. It was different then. I mean, you guys have gone for years, right?
GOSK: I’ve never been.
SNOW: It was – it was –
KELLY: I don’t know, he got ripped. He got ripped, too, but I have to say, I felt uncomfortable then, too.
SNOW: It was always kind of awkward and uncomfortable for the journalists because we’re journalists, and we’re sitting in this audience. I don’t know, I would not have wanted to be in that room on Saturday.
KELLY: The rule – me neither. And the rule at the Gridiron, which is a different fancy Washington dinner, is singe, don’t burn. And I think anybody invited to speak at these events would do very well to follow that rule. Good humor. As Ellen always says, if you’ve offended somebody in your attempt to make a joke, and your response is, “I’m just kidding,” her response is, “You’re doing it wrong, because we should both be laughing.”