In the absence of one Donald Trump, who hosted a rally for himself in Michigan in lieu of attending the White House Correspondents’ Dinner Saturday night, the MC and comedian Michelle Wolf declined to, as they say, take any prisoners. “Like a porn star says when she’s about to have sex with Trump, let’s get this over with,” Wolf said, opening her remarks. It was the president’s second consecutive year skipping the Correspondents’ Dinner, attendance at which would require him to be able to take a joke at his own expense. (The last president to miss the dinner, as CNN’s Brian Stelter pointed out on Twitter, was Ronald Reagan, in 1981—then recovering from an attempted assassination.)
Among the objects of her scathing one-liners were several White House officials who did attend the Correspondents’ Dinner—for, it seems, they weren’t professionally mandated to fill out the crowd at the Michigan rally—as well as reporters and broadcast journalists across the political spectrum. Mike Pence, Al Franken, Megyn Kelly, Rachel Maddow, Kellyanne Conway, and Morning Joe’s Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski all got a bit of a roast—but perhaps no segment of the speech was quite so noted among audiences as Wolf’s jokes about Trump’s wealth (“Mr. President, I don’t think you’re very rich; you might be rich in Idaho, but in New York, you’re doing fine”) and about Sarah Huckabee Sanders, just in general.
Sanders was reportedly seated in Wolf’s direct line of sight, making the comments all the bolder: “I loved you as Aunt Lydia in The Handmaid’s Tale,” Wolf said to her. “I’m never really sure what to call Sarah Huckabee Sanders. Is it Sarah Sanders, Sarah Huckabee Sanders? Is it Cousin Huckabee? Is it Auntie Huckabee Sanders? Like, what’s Uncle Tom, but for white women who disappoint other white women? Oh, I know, Aunt Coulter.”
The New York Times journalist Maggie Haberman complimented Sanders’s seeming gameness for taking the criticism—“That @PressSec sat and absorbed intense criticism of her physical appearance, her job performance, and so forth, instead of walking out, on national television, was impressive,” she wrote on Twitter—a perspective that, judging by social media reactions both to her tweet and to the Correspondents’ Dinner as a whole, not all agree with. Kathy Griffin, speaking with The Washington Post after the dinner (she was in the room for Wolf’s speech), said, “Washington is so thin-skinned.” (She would know.) Celebrities like Rosie O’Donnell (whose cover photo is already an image of Wolf), Kumail Nanjiani, and Anthony Bourdain weighed in on social media, largely praising Wolf’s performance—though, of course, conservative commentators and trolls offered the inverse perspective on Twitter as well. See some of the most notable celebrity reactions, below.
But there was perhaps no response as pithy as Wolf's own, in response to Sean Spicer's tweet that "Tonight's #WHCD was a disgrace." "Thank you!" she responded.
Also, while the president was off in Michigan, remarking, as always, on the size of the crowd at his rally, Wolf closed the night with a reminder: Flint, Michigan, still doesn’t have water.