President Trump avoided the jokes that were made at his expense at the White House Correspondents' Dinner on Saturday night, but at least someone had to represent his administration. That honor fell to Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, but the WHCD jokes about her are now getting some blowback, because host Michelle Wolf really didn't hold back.
New York Times reporter Maggie Habermann commented on Sanders' patience at the event on Twitter, saying, "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."
Host Michelle Wolf, however, pushed back at Habermann in a response on Twitter. "Hey mags [sic]!" Wolf wrote in a tweet. "All these jokes were about her despicable behavior. Sounds like you have some thoughts about her looks though?"
Wolf's divisive routine about Sanders touched on numerous subjects, but it's definitely a matter of contention as to whether it did actually include jokes directly insulting her appearance. “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?" Wolf said as part of the set that Habermann was referring to. "Like, what’s Uncle Tom but for white women who disappoint other white women?"
Wolf's set about Sanders actually opened with a more pop culture-related joke about women disappointing other women. She said that Sanders had "graced" the event with her presence, and then dove straight into the jokes. "I have to say I’m a little star-struck," Wolf said. "I love you as Aunt Lydia in The Handmaid’s Tale. Mike Pence, if you haven’t seen it, you would love it."
Aunt Lydia, for those who haven't seen The Handmaid's Tale, is the character who plays the biggest role in teaching women about their new role in society and punishing them when they act wrongly.
"Every time Sarah steps up to the podium, I get excited, because I’m not really sure what we’re going to get," Wolf's set continued. "You know, a press briefing, a bunch of lies or divided into softball teams. ‘It’s shirts and skins, and this time don’t be such a little b****, Jim Acosta!’"
The comment most related to her outward appearance came next. "“I actually really like Sarah," Wolf began. "I think she’s very resourceful. She burns facts and then she uses that ash to create a perfect smoky eye. Like maybe she’s born with it, maybe it’s lies. It’s probably lies.”
Wolf's routine about Sanders was divisive, to say the least — and it was split along predictable lines. Sean Spicer, for example, represented those who support the Trump administration when he called the event "a disgrace." Wolf, however, responded by retweeting Spicer's comment with an emphatic "Thank you!"
Wolf's joke that touched on Sanders' appearance was probably the most provocative one, even though Wolf only made reference to Sanders' characteristic makeup choice by talking about her "perfect smokey eye." Those criticizing Wolf's joke claim that the comment was body shaming because of it does make reference to Sanders' looks. Wolf's defenders on Twitter and elsewhere, though, have noted that the body of the joke is about Sanders lying to the White House press corps, which she has been caught doing on numerous occasions.
Any jokes at the White House Correspondents' Dinner about Sanders, though, with her very visible role in the Trump administration, were always going to be very funny to some and very offensive to others. If you watch a video of the set, you can even hear the laughter and booing mixing together. No matter what you think of the set, though, at least one thing is undeniable — Sanders just listened, and didn't let her discomfort get the better of her.