A journalist who was in the room Saturday night during comedian Michelle Wolf’s horrendous remarks at the 2018 White House Correspondents’ Dinner is speaking out about the dreadful experience. During her bizarre and decidedly not-funny address, Wolf roasted Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, mocking her for her deeply-held religious beliefs and conservative values.
Sanders, who was barely a few feet from Wolf during the horrific remarks, remained silent, though clearly disturbed, the entire time.
Benny Johnson was one of the many journalists in attendance, and he described not only the palpable sense of unease amongst the majority of the press in attendance but also revealed Sander’s incredible reaction following the distasteful address.
“Sarah Sanders was smiling. She owned it,” The Daily Caller writer wrote on Facebook. I asked her about the attack and she shrugged with a smile and just said the attacks didn’t bother her and that she’s praying for the comedian. That is the kind of woman she is.”
Johnson declared that Sanders is simply a “better and bigger person than the sad leftists who attack her, ” adding that he “saw even some of the most liberal reporters in the profession cringe with disgust.” Former White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer told the Guardian he thought the performance was “absolutely disgusting.”
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“The idea that people clapped at that. It’s one thing to celebrate the First Amendment but that, tonight, was one of the most disgusting and deplorable things I’ve ever heard in my life. The language, the references were way over the line,” Spicer said.
“There’s a lot of people on that dais from the media that need to answer for that. The White House Correspondents’ Association needs to answer for that,” he continued. “That was disgusting. The idea that viewers at home listened to that. I think they have a very distorted view for what the first amendment’s all about. There are a lot of reporters on that dais that brought her here that should answer for that.”
Dear @PressSec – it took a lot of dignity, guts, and class to sit through what you did tonight. You personified professionalism. Thank you. pic.twitter.com/4XsjCx8DQB
— Brad Thor (@BradThor) April 29, 2018
Johnson commended Sanders for her poise and professionalism in the face of such a ferocious verbal attack.
“Flying into a city to cheap-shot a working mother to her face in front of a room of one thousand journalists because you disagree with her politically is not brave. It’s the definition of a coward and a bully,” Johnson continued. “Putting up with it and forgiving that person afterward? That is real power. That is strength. That is class. That is Sarah Sanders.”
Being mean is not really funny.
— Jake Sherman (@JakeSherman) April 29, 2018
A staggeringly gracious response to what was a highly humiliating and frankly vicious personal attack. But according to her staff, this reaction was nothing out of the ordinary for the daughter of former Arkansas Governor, Mike Huckabee.
“At the MSNBC after-party, I spoke with high-ranking members of Sarah’s staff. They were disgusted by the remarks – and tell me that the plan was for Sarah to walk-out if they got too personal. Sarah however, stayed firm. “I don’t know how she does it,” one of her closest confidants told me, “She kills them with kindness – she puts up with it. Good-hearted American people see that – and then she wins.””
An array of journalists took to Twitter to express their outrage at the comedian’s remarks. Whether from the liberal or conservative side of the media, one thing was abundantly clear – the disgust at Wolf’s remarks was universal.
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
I think @PressSec unflinching gaze at Michelle Wolf was the most interesting thing about the event, which is intended to honor the First Amendment but in fact mocked the values of civil society so thoroughly as to stun even the cynical reporters. The honest ones will admit it.
— Hugh Hewitt (@hughhewitt) April 29, 2018
The winner of last night was hands down @PressSec. Sitting poised and beautiful as #wchd comedian Michelle Wolf reminded us how ugly we can be when tearing another person down. I hope this inspires us all to be better, kinder, non-judging people.
— Abby Huntsman (@HuntsmanAbby) April 29, 2018
I don’t blame @realDonaldTrump for skipping last night’s #WHCD. Fun night but some uncomfortable moments with comedian @michelleisawolf. She crossed the line with her joke about @PressSec’s appearance. She also called her a liar. Too mean spirited to be funny.
— Jenna Browder (@JennaBrowder) April 29, 2018
By far the best guest at the White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner. His name is Nigel. @andreamccarren is raising him to be a service dog. #WHCD2018 #WHCA pic.twitter.com/JR9mJEjvAl
— Katie Pavlich (@KatiePavlich) April 29, 2018
The son late evangelist Billy Graham, Franklin Graham, also took to social media to express his disgust at Sunday night’s proceedings.
“The press who cover the White House in Washington should be the best of the best. But what took place at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner last night was shameful,” Graham wrote on Facebook. “I don’t blame President Donald J. Trump for not attending! Who would want to sit there and listen to the vile filth spewing out of Michelle Wolf’s mouth?” Franklin’s post has received 150,000 likes and over 50,000 shares so far.
As well as lambasting Michelle Wolf for her unimaginative and grossly offensive monologue about Press Sec. Sarah Sanders, Graham also picked up on the comedian’s despicable remarks about abortion:
“This was way more than mean-spirited and antagonistic. Her targeting of White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was uncalled for,” Franklin wrote. “And this is what Wolf said about Vice President Mike Pence’s position against abortion: ‘He thinks abortion is murder which, first of all, don’t knock it ’til you try it — and when you do try it, really knock it. You know, you’ve got to get that baby out of there.’
Does anyone think that is a joke? What gall! I have some news for her—Not only does Vice President Pence believe that abortion is murder, but so do I, and so do millions of other Americans. And most importantly, so does Almighty God, the maker of heaven and earth and all that is in it.”
You can watch the remarks for yourself below. WARNING: Strong language.