The reviews are in: President Donald Trump has given a thumbs-down to the comedian who roasted his chief spokeswoman at the annual White House Correspondents’ Association dinner.
The organisation’s leader said she regretted that Michelle Wolf’s routine may end up defining an evening that was designed to rally around journalism.
“Everyone is talking about the fact that the White House Correspondents Dinner was a very big, boring bust … the so-called comedian really “bombed,” Mr Trump tweeted on Sunday.
While Washington, Michigan, was a big success, Washington, D.C., just didn’t work. Everyone is talking about the fact that the White House Correspondents Dinner was a very big, boring bust…the so-called comedian really “bombed.” @greggutfeld should host next year! @PeteHegseth
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 29, 2018
The president declined to attend the journalism awards dinner for the second consecutive year. He instead held a campaign rally in Michigan.
Ms Wolf is known as a contributor on Comedy Central’s The Daily Show With Trevor Noah. But some of her jokes, particularly a series of barbs about White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders as she sat just feet away, seemed to spark the most outrage.
Sean Spicer, who preceded Ms Sanders at the White House lectern, tweeted after dinner that the night “was a disgrace”.
Others, including Ed Henry, chief national correspondent for Fox News and a former association president, and MSNBC’s Morning Joe co-host Ms Brzezinski, called on the association to apologise to Ms Sanders.
Ms Brzezinski has been the subject of personal attacks by Mr Trump. Henry also called on Wolf to apologise.
Matt Schlapp, chairman of the American Conservative Union, tweeted that he and his wife, Mercedes Schlapp, director of strategic communications at the White House, walked out of the dinner.
“Enough of elites mocking all of us,” he said.
Ms Sanders’ response to the comic’s ridicule was commended on social media, with US journalists Mika Brzezinski and Maggie Haberman saying Ms Wolf’s attacked Ms Sanders’ physical appearance.
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.
— Maggie Haberman (@maggieNYT) April 29, 2018
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.
— Mika Brzezinski (@morningmika) April 29, 2018
Ms Wolf denied the claims, responding on Twitter: “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,” she said.
Margaret Talev, the association’s president and Bloomberg News’ senior White House correspondent, said she didn’t want a dinner celebrating the constitutional right to free speech to be overshadowed by the ensuing uproar over Ms Wolf’s jokes.
“My only regret is that to some extent those 15 minutes are now defining four hours of what was a really wonderful unifying night and I don’t want the cause of unity to be undercut,” Ms Talev said on Sunday on CNN’s Reliable Sources.
Ms Talev said she spoke to Ms Sanders after Ms Wolf’s routine and “I told her that I knew that this was a big decision whether or not to attend the dinner, whether to sit at the head table and that I really appreciated her being there”.
No Trump administration officials attended the dinner last year after Mr Trump decided to skip it. Many were in the audience on Saturday night, however, including counsellor Kellyanne Conway, herself a target of Ms Wolf, and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross.
Ms Talev said that, by tradition, the association does not review the comedian’s monologue before it is delivered.
“We don’t censor it. We don’t even see it,” she said.