President Donald Trump's press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, endured mean-spirited jokes by comedian Michelle Wolf at the 2018 White House Correspondents' Dinner in Washington on Saturday. Both liberals and conservatives have deemed the jokes uncivil while others noted that Trump also routinely uses personal insults.
The annual event, bringing together political figures and media representatives with a comedic spin, saw headliner Michelle Wolf focus on Sanders in the absence of Trump, delivering jokes that many say went too far.
"I actually really like Sarah," Wolf said in part. "I think she's very resourceful. She burns facts, and then she uses that ash to create a perfect smokey eye. Like maybe she's born with it, maybe it's lies. It's probably lies."
At another point she added: "I'm never really sure what to call Sarah Huckabee Sanders, you know? Is it Sarah Sanders, is it Sarah Huckabee Sanders, is it Cousin Huckabee, is it Auntie Huckabee Sanders? What's Uncle Tom but for white women who disappoint other white women? Oh, I know. Aunt Coulter."
A video of the dinner shows Sanders getting increasingly uncomfortable as the routine went on.
Chief among those to lash out at Wolf and defend Sanders following the event was the latter's father, former Arizona governor Mike Huckabee.
"The WHCD was supposed to celebrate the 1st Amendment. Instead they celebrated bullying, vulgarity, and hate. They got all dressed up so they would look nicer when they had a hired gun savagely attack their guests. Do they really wonder why America has no respect for them? Sad," Huckabee declared on Twitter.
"Those who think that the tasteless classless bullying at the WHCD was an example of the 1st Amendment should never condemn bullying, bigoted comments, racist bile or hate speech. People should be free to speak but held accountable for it," he added.
Other conservatives, such as Hollywood actor James Woods, also came to Sanders' defense, arguing that opponents hate her "because she represents every aspect of American womanhood that we admire: intelligence, grace, empowerment, patriotism, and beauty."
Mika Brzezinski, MSNBC host, added: "Watching a wife and mother be humiliated on national television for her looks is deplorable. I have experienced insults about my appearance from the president. All women have a duty to unite when these attacks happen and the WHCA owes Sarah an apology."
Wolf defended herself, however, and responded to Brzezinski's criticism by stating:
"Why are you guys making this about Sarah's looks? I said she burns facts and uses the ash to create a *perfect* smoky eye. I complimented her eye makeup and her ingenuity of materials."
In another tweet she added: "All these jokes were about her (Sanders') despicable behavior."
The comedian received support from some on the left, including Pakistani-American stand-up comedian and writer Kumail Nanjiani, who in a tweet called out journalists who are offended at the remarks against Sanders:
"They call you liars. They call Mexicans rapists. They call Muslims murderers. They support white supremacists. But someone calls them out on what they do, & suddenly they're heroes for not walking out."
Some on the right, including front-page contributor Jim Jamitis of the American conservative political blog RedState, accused those taking offence at Wolf's remarks of hypocrisy, given the tone set by Trump in his own tweets directed at journalists through the years.
"Wolf's comments to Sarah Huckabee Sanders were definitely more hostile than humorous. This should not induce 'oh woe is she' responses from people on the right. Sanders signed on to be the mouthpiece for a guy who unfairly mocked people's appearances, disabilities, and genders all the way to the Republican nomination. She's a big girl and knew what she was doing and I'm sure she also knows that the left has a hard time distinguishing between funny and mean," Jamitis argued.
"On his way to the White House, Trump mocked women, Hispanics, the disabled, and anyone who publicly chose not to support him unconditionally," he added.
Conservative pundit Erik Erikson noted that both sides of the debate can be true: the jokes were inappropriate and Trump has engaged in similar behavior.
"'But the President says nasty things to people too and you're okay with that,' is not an excuse to say nasty things to people. But it has become one. I'm old enough to remember when two wrongs didn't make a right," he tweeted.
"It is, however, notable that many people outraged over the attacks on Sarah Sanders are indeed perfectly okay with the President attacking others in personal terms," Erikson added.
Trump tweeted Sunday night about Wolf, saying, "The White House Correspondents' Dinner was a failure last year, but this year was an embarrassment to everyone associated with it. The filthy 'comedian' totally bombed (couldn't even deliver her lines-much like the Seth Meyers weak performance). Put Dinner to rest, or start over!"
Then again tweeted about the event Monday morning, saying, "The White House Correspondents' Dinner is DEAD as we know it. This was a total disaster and an embarrassment to our great Country and all that it stands for. FAKE NEWS is alive and well and beautifully represented on Saturday night!"
Update, April 30, 2018: WHCA President Margaret Talev issued a statement Sunday night, saying in part, "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."
You can watch Michelle Wolf's complete remarks at the 2018 White House Correspondents' Dinner below, but be aware some of the language is crude: