If President Donald Trump isn’t comfortable being the target of jokes, comedian Michelle Wolf gave him and others plenty of reasons to squirm Saturday night.
“It’s 2018 and I’m a woman, so you cannot shut me up,” Wolf cracked, “unless you have Michael Cohen wire me $130,000.”
No, Trump’s personal attorney wasn’t there. And, for the second year, Trump himself skipped the annual dinner of the White House Correspondents’ Association, preferring to criticize journalists and others during a campaign-style rally near Detroit.
Wolf, the after-dinner entertainment for the White House press corps and their guests, was surprisingly racy for the venue and seemed more at home on HBO than C-SPAN. After one crass joke drew groans in the Washington Hilton ballroom, she laughed and said, “Yeah, shoulda done more research before you got me to do this.”
Trump in Michigan
As he did last year, Trump flew to a Republican-friendly district to rally supporters on the same night as the dinner. In Washington Township, Michigan, the president assured his audience he’d rather be there than in that other city by that name.
“Is this better than that phony Washington White House Correspondents’ Dinner? Is this more fun?” Trump asked, sparking cheers.
“I could be up there tonight, smiling, like I love where they’re hitting you, shot after shot. These people, they hate your guts … and you’ve got to smile. If you don’t smile, they say, ‘He was terrible, he couldn’t take it.’ And if you do smile, they’ll say, “What was he smiling about?’”
Wolf’s act had some in the audience laughing and left others in stony silence. A blistering critique of press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who was seated just feet away, mocked everything from her truthfulness to her appearance and Southern roots.
Among Wolf’s less offensive one-liners:
“Just a reminder to everyone, I’m here to make jokes, I have no agenda, I’m not trying to get anything accomplished, so everyone that’s here from Congress you should feel right at home.” “It is kinda crazy that the Trump campaign was in contact with Russia when the Hillary campaign wasn’t even in contact with Michigan.” “He wants to give teachers guns, and I support that because then they can sell them for things they need like supplies.”
Dimmed star power
The dinner once attracted Oscar winners and other notable performers in film and television as well as celebrities in sports and other high-profile professions. The star power dimmed appreciably last year when the famously thin-skinned Trump, who routinely slammed reporters as dishonest and their work as “fake news,” announced he wasn’t attending. He was the first president to skip the event since Ronald Reagan bowed out in 1981 as he recovered from an assassination attempt.
Unlike last year, when Trump aides also declined to attend, the Trump White House had its contingent, including counselor to the president Kellyanne Conway and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross. Former administration officials were on hand, such as onetime press secretary Sean Spicer, ex-chief of staff Reince Priebus, former chief economic adviser Gary Cohn and political aide Omarosa Manigault-Newman.
At least one Trump antagonist attended — porn star Stormy Daniels’ attorney Michael Avenatti, who tweeted that he and Conway had a “spirited discussion.” And there was comedian Kathy Griffin, who last year posted controversial video of herself holding what appeared to be Trump’s bloody head; she later apologized.