A panel of journalists on CNN criticized comedian Michelle Wolf’s stand-up routine at the White House Correspondents’ dinner on the basis that the jokes counteracted the goal of the night.
John King, host of CNN’s “Inside Politics,” wondered if the media was playing into President Donald Trump’s hand by hosting a dinner that attacked press secretary Sarah Sanders and possibly “crossed the line.”
“I thought the jokes were one-sided, not necessarily funny, but she was invited by the White House Correspondents’ Association,” White House Correspondent Jeff Zeleny, who attended the dinner, said.
He called going after Sanders’ appearance “inappropriate,” but added that it wasn’t the first time the night had some “awkward” moments. Zeleny explained:
“The press has done a lot of incredible work this year … a lot of that was overtaken by a skit that wasn’t very funny and we sometimes celebrate ourselves too much, I think. The reality is that it’s an important job and last night I don’t think we lived up to it.”
King agreed that reporters need to stand up to the White House but said the dinner wasn’t the time or place because it’s supposed to be a relief from the tense relationship between the press and politicians.
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The Washington Post congressional reporter Karoun Demirjian added that even if Wolf’s jokes weren’t vetted since she was invited by the WHCA, she was effectively endorsed by reporters.
“She’s effectively speaking for the press at a very tense moment,” she said. “If you are someone who’s already skeptical of whether the media is unbiased or not it’s difficult to have the disclaimer ‘this is just an outtake, this isn’t really us.'”
Politico congressional reporter Rachel Blade called it a “gift” for Trump and a “bad look” for the press to give into the natural reflex to defend themselves by making jokes at the administration’s expense.
However, Perry Bacon, a political writer for FiveThirtyEight, disagreed and said that after three years of Trump attacking the press, any comedian is going to make a few jokes.
Panelists agreed not all press is “fake news” and despite what Trump thinks, the media isn’t out to get him, but given the tone of the dinner, Zeleny concluded, “The president wins last night, rhetorically, no question.”