White House Correspondents’ Assn. President Margaret Talev didn’t cover herself in glory with her criticism of comedian Michelle Wolf’s performance at its annual over-the-top gala on April 28.
The program, according to Talev’s note to members, was “meant to offer a unifying message about or 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.”
Excuse me! What did you expect, Margaret? Wolf is an edgy, up and coming comedian who worked as a writer for The Daily Show and Late Night with Seth Meyers. She’s certainly no plain vanilla comic like Jay Leno.
The Correspondents’ Dinner is pitched as a celebration of the First Amendment. Wolf certainly celebrated her free speech rights with a performance that some viewed as mean-spirited and vulgar. The First Amendment, Margaret, is not all rainbows, lollipops and unicorns. It covers speech that provokes, and yes, sometimes offends people. Since it stands for things like the right of white supremacists to march in Charlottesville, the First Amendment is hardly civil. That’s the strength of free speech.
It’s not like Wolf stormed the podium to trash Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, Sarah Sanders, Kellyanne Conway, Mike Pence, Fox News, CNN, MSNBC and others. Since the Association invited Wolf to keynote, the very least it could do is to stand behind her, rather than throw her under the bus. If you want an edgy comic, you must be willing to suffer the consequences. Gee, Margaret, are you afraid that Wolf’s bit might cost you or others access to the White House?
Talev asked members about their views “on the format of the dinner going forward.” Though not a member, my view is to kill it. The Dinner is an embarrassment to journalism. The annual gala is where journalists preen and woo potential sources in the government. It’s an elitist affair that hurts the credibility of journalism. It should have been killed years ago.
To her credit, Talev didn’t go as far as sanctimonious Andrea Mitchell, who has demanded that Wolf apologizes to Sanders for criticizing her makeup. Sanders has pretty thick skin. She'll be just fine.
The WHCA needs to thicken its skin.