The White House Correspondents Dinner can occasionally be a source of controversy. Such was the case for comedian Michelle Wolf, whose jabs at White House staff — particularly Sarah Huckabee Sanders — earned her a fair bit of criticism. But during her Wednesday appearance on Late Night with Seth Meyers, Michelle Wolf stole a Sanders line and repurposed it to her comedic ends.
After joking with Meyers that "every single person" loved her WHCD standup — including Sanders — Meyers responded, "Really? Because I was watching and there were a few that seemed like she maybe didn’t like or get.”
Wolf replied, "Well, you know, you give the best information you have at the time. It's a philosophy."
Sanders used a version of that very line several times during a May 3 White House press conference. The previous day had brought forth a bombshell revelation — that President Trump personally reimbursed his lawyer Michael Cohen for a $130,000 hush money payment to adult film star Stormy Daniels. Prior to Rudy Giuliani's stunning disclosure of that fact during an interview with Fox News host Sean Hannity, the president had routinely denied any knowledge of the Daniels payment. After Giuliani's interview, Trump said "Money from the campaign, or campaign contributions, played no roll [sic] in this transaction."
When reporters asked Sanders for an explanation as to why she had repeatedly told them otherwise, she offered variations of the "best information at the time" defense.
The Washington Post's Erik Wemple cited no fewer than three separate occasions that Sanders used the "best information" dodge during that single press conference in early May. After acknowledging that available information can and often does evolve over time, Wemple drew a contrast between average sources and President Trump, who "defaults to mendacity." According to Wemple, if Sanders is getting her intel from him, then "the 'very best information possible at the time' is a can of piss."
It seems Wolf agrees. The WHCD joke that launched a thousand screeds tied Sanders' makeup prowess to her dysfunctional relationship with the truth. Wolf riffed, "I actually really like Sarah. I think she’s very resourceful. She burns facts, and then she uses the ash to create a perfect smoky eye. Maybe she’s born with it, maybe it’s lies. It’s probably lies.”
Some complained that Wolf had taken a low-blow at Sanders' looks. MSNBC host Mika Brzezinski tweeted, "Watching a wife and mother be humiliated on national television for her looks is deplorable."
But Wolf shot back that the joke had nothing to do with denigrating Sanders' appearance — just the opposite, in fact. Wolf responded on Twitter to Brzezinski and asked, "Why are you guys making this about Sarah's looks?" The comedian noted she "complimented her eye makeup and her ingenuity of materials," i.e., a pile of proverbially incinerated facts.
Wolf and Wemple are not alone in this take on Sanders. Responding to the May 3 press briefing, David Chalain — CNN's political director — said on air that one could "circle this day on your calendar" as the moment when "Sarah Sanders made it so painfully clear that she has lost credibility with the American people, with the reporters in that room."
Of course, Sanders' did not "love" Wolf's jokes about her. WHCD video of the press secretary's facial expressions during Wolf's routine show Sanders was clearly not amused. In fairness, it can't be easy to hear oneself compared to Aunt Lydia from The Handmaid's Tale — another one of Wolf's jabs at Sanders.
But as Wolf demonstrated Wednesday with Seth Meyers, the "best information" line can allow a person to get away with quite a lot — including the claim that Sanders "loved" her routine.