If the White House Correspondents wanted to stick it to President Trump and his minions at the recent 2018 Correspondents Dinner, mission accomplished! They hit the mark and then some, and in so doing cut yet another divide between the American people.
The very choice of Michelle Wolf (comedian and contributing writer for The Daily Show with Trevor Noah) as host set the tone for the event. Surely Republicans knew what was coming; I applaud members of the Trump administration for showing up to face the anticipated slings and arrows, and I don’t blame the President one bit for not attending. Trump detractors claim professional Trumpers deserve every shot for standing shoulder-to-shoulder with a man who may very well be the most unpopular, controversial president in our nation’s history, a point that is well taken but smacks of an uncomfortable double standard. If President Trump is sharply criticized for his often callous, insulting remarks, why is it acceptable to sling mud back at him? While the old saying “what’s good for the goose is good for the gander” may be apropos, so also is this: “two wrongs don’t make a right”.
At this year’s Correspondents Dinner, Michelle Wolf crossed the ever blurring line between what is ethical and what is not. Anything Trump related was fair game. Wolf was vulgar, crass, and degrading, viciously lambasting everything from Trump’s bank account to Don, Jr.’s hair to Sarah Sanders’ face. Perhaps the most disconcerting element of her performance was what it revealed about the audience. We are hypocritically discerning when it comes to bullying (or perhaps we are so blinded by dislike for Donald Trump that we no longer recognize it). Do people hate Donald Trump so much that they are willing to sacrifice dignity and grace to hurt the man and his family? If so, what does that say about us?
In response to heated backlash, on April 29th, WHCA President Margaret Talev condemned Michelle Wolf’s performance, stating: “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 the mission.” That depends on what that the mission was, doesn’t it? After Michelle Wolf’s presentation, one has to wonder if the WHCA and Wolf had some sort of unspoken alliance whereby the WHCA utilized Wolf to serve a hefty dose of payback to the man who popularized the term “fake news” while the comic seized the political podium to make a name for herself. Again, mission accomplished!
In his presidential campaign, President Trump promised to “drain the swamp” and “make America great again”, something the media had a good laugh over, claiming Trump created the swamp, and there was no need to make America great again; we were always great. Are we? I’m not so sure. We’ve lowered our standards, and that’s not President Trump’s fault. Each individual citizen, each journalist, has a choice to express his/her beliefs in a constructive manner or to sling mud. There’s a lot of people in the White House flailing around in the swamp; at the 2018 Correspondents Dinner, the press dove right in with them.