The liberal media was in damage control mode on Sunday after the disgusting comedic performance by Michelle Wolf at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner fell so flat with the public that it left many journalists backpedaling themselves. It was the first topic of discussion on CNN’s Reliable Sources as host Brian Stelter questioned White House Correspondents’ Association President Margaret Talev about Wolf’s act. And when asked, Talev refused to say whether not she thought the “jokes” crossed a line.
Stelter began by wondering if Talev had any regrets about the previous evening. Talev opined about how the event was supposed to be about “unity,” the spirit of “journalism,” and appreciating the administration. But she had only one regret: “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.”
“You're saying the celebration of the First Amendment was overshadowed by Wolf's raunchy jokes,” Stelter asked while Talev made excuses for Wolf’s degenerate performance. “The entertainer is a comedian and as has been the case for most of the last 30 years or so, they are often controversial. They are often, you know, to some extent, polarizing or at least provocative,” she argued. But that’s completely ignoring the fact that Wolf “joked” about dropping a tree on Kellyanne Conway and about killing babies.
When Stelter finally got around to asking his guest about if she thought Wolf had crossed a line, Talev wouldn’t give a straight answer. “I think what she brought to the night-- what she thought was important to say and her goal may not have been press unity and everyone rally around the room to support journalism,” she lamented.
Talev seemed to defend Wolf’s disgustingness by saying she had a “message.” “But look, I invited her. And I invited her because I thought she is a talented comedian who had a message to deliver and she delivered a message. I delivered a message, too.” She also explained that the reason Wolf was selected was that she was a rising comedian and a woman.
In near back-to-back questions, Stelter pressed Talev on if the act could hurt the image of the White House press corps and if they would they issue an analogy to Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders since many journalists were calling for it. “I think the comedian reflects on the press corps, but I don't think the comedian speaks for the press corps. The press corps speaks for itself,” she argued while thinking her comments to Sanders after the act were sufficient.
Talev’s refusal to say that Wolf’s act crossed a line of decency was quite telling, especially since other members of the White House Correspondents Association won’t hesitate to do so. ABC Chief White House correspondent Jon Karl, who is currently a board member of the organization and set to take the reins as president next year, repeatedly denounced the act on Sunday.
“I think that the comedian crossed the line. And this went from -- poking fun to being mean-spirited. It was very uncomfortable,” Karl said on ABC’s Good Morning America and again on This Week.
The relevant portions of the transcript are below, click "expand" to read:
April 29, 2018
11:02:00 AM Eastern
BRIAN STELTER: So Margaret, we start with you. There’s so much fury about the jokes Michelle Wolf made on stage last night. Do you, as the head of the association, have any regrets this morning?
MARGARET TALEV: Brian, I'll tell you this. First of all, it was a great honor to be able to preside over last night's dinner and to represent all of the journalists who cover the White House and we were really appreciative to have so many administration officials in the audience, including Sarah Sanders at the head table last night.
My aim and the way I sought to put together the program was to build a spirit of unity in that room, to rally around journalism and why it's important. And I worked really hard to do that with my own speech, and with the selection of guests who sang and the woman to my side, an Egyptian-American woman, who was rescued by President Trump and is an advocate for press freedom. 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.
STELTER: You're saying the celebration of the First Amendment was overshadowed by Wolf's raunchy jokes?
TALEV: Well, to some extent -- look, the comedian -- when the entertainer is a comedian and as has been the case for most of the last 30 years or so, they are often controversial. They are often, you know, to some extent, polarizing or at least provocative. And it's a night about free so by tradition, we do not vet their monologue. We don't censor it, we don't even see, in fact—
STELTER: So you don't see the jokes beforehand, that's interesting.
TALEV: I did sneak down to the rehearsal and walk-through, just in case, but she wouldn't give anything up.
STELTER: Do you think she crossed a line?
TALEV: I think that she brought to the night-- what she thought was important to say and her goal may not have been press unity and everyone rally around the room to support journalism. But look, I invited her. And I invited her because I thought she is a talented comedian who had a message to deliver and she delivered a message. I delivered a message, too. My message is the one that I hope represents the press corps and certainly represents me. It was about my own personal experiences, my family experiences. Why I believe that journalism is so important.
STELTER: Tell me about choosing her, though, why select her this year?
TALEV: Look, I mean, she's a comedian on the rise, and she's a woman, and 2017, 2018, 2016, these were all important years for women. I thought she was provocative and had a message to deliver. And she did deliver it.
STELTER: I think she views the Trump presidency as a crisis, as an emergency, and she was trying to speak truth to power, but she was criticized for some of these personal comments about Sarah Sanders. Let's watch, keeping in mind that the press secretary is sitting just a few feet away.
STELTER: A lot of the criticism of Wolf has been about personal attacks against Sanders. People saying she was criticizing Sanders' personal appearance. Wolf responded overnight on Twitter saying I was trying to talk about her behavior. Her behavior as White House press secretary. But keeping in mind that, you know, I saw you walked over to Sanders right after the roast. Can you tell us about that conversation?
TALEV: I told her that I knew that this was a big decision, whether or not to attend the dinner and whether to sit at the head table and that I really appreciated her being there. I thought it sent an important message about the role of government and the press being able to communicate with one another and work together and that I appreciated her being there.
STELTER: But you don't think having her there seems like an endorsement by the press corps?
TALEV: I think the comedian reflects on the press corps, but I don't think the comedian speaks for the press corps. The press corps speaks for itself. I’m the president of the White House Correspondents’ Association and in my message last night, I sought to explain to everyone that journalists are Americans from all walks of life.
STELTER: But now in the aftermath of Michelle Wolf's -- what do we call I stand-up act, there are calls for apologies. We’ve heard calls from Fox’s Ed Henry, a past president of the association, NBC's Andrea Mitchell a few minutes ago saying that the association should apologize to Sanders. Will there be an apology?
TALEV: What I told you is what I have already told Sarah Sanders. That I speak for myself and the association in that my interest is in the spirit of unity and in the spirit of serious journalism.