This past weekend, the annual White House Correspondents’ Dinner took place in Washington D.C. The Correspondents’ Dinner is theoretically intended to show appreciation and a mutual respect for the relationship between the press and the president by putting their differences aside and celebrating the First Amendment.
As has been the nature of this country since Nov. 8, 2016, “typical” has become a word which is no longer applicable when describing social norms between the press and the president. President Trump decided to skip the dinner for the second year in a row — which is very uncommon for the president to do — opting to hold a rally in Michigan instead.
Although President Trump was absent, notable members of the White House staff such as Sarah Huckabee Sanders and Kellyanne Conway were in attendance. Unfortunately for them, they happened to be on the receiving end of comedian Michelle Wolf’s monologue. Though, in fairness, so was everyone else in the room.
“You guys have got to stop putting Kellyanne on your shows. All she does is lie. If you don’t give her a platform, she has nowhere to lie … if a tree falls in the woods, how do we get Kellyanne under that tree? I’m not suggesting she gets hurt. Just stuck,” Wolf said on Conway. She went on to talk about how Huckabee Sanders is a liar as well.
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Conservatives found Wolf’s monologue completely inappropriate and of foul taste. They drew the line when Wolf “attacked” Huckabee Sanders by going after her looks as well as calling her and Conway liars. Furthermore, they claimed Wolf’s attacks were one-sided in that they only targeted Republicans, despite that she mocked CNN, CNN’s Jake Tapper, Hillary Clinton, Rachel Maddow and liberals as well. Whether you think Wolf went too far or not, there’s a great deal of hypocrisy occurring among conservatives in the wake of this dinner.
Conservatives have labeled liberals “snowflakes,” a term used to depict someone who is easily offended by the smallest things, such as a comedian. But, the moment a comedian takes a few shots at their colleagues, all of a sudden the jokes and insults have gone too far. This criticism didn’t resonate well and comedians Dave Chapelle, Trevor Noah and Stephen Colbert who came to Wolf’s aid by pointing out the hypocrisy. Colbert summed it up best when he sarcastically claimed, “This is the Correspondents’ Dinner celebrating the freedom of speech. You can’t just say whatever you want.”
Conservatives have been quick to defend the freedoms granted by the Constitution. But when free speech is offensive to them, it becomes morally reprehensible.
Jordan Peterson is a Canadian clinical psychologist who is quickly becoming an admired conservative voice as he has made numerous arguments over social justice and identity politics. Peterson has been growing in popularity over the last couple of years, but an interview with Cathy Newman really put Peterson on the map. At a point in the interview, Newman pressed Peterson on why his right to free speech should trump a trans person’s right not to be offended.
“In order to be able to think, you have to risk being offensive” Peterson said. But, since the script has been flipped, conservatives such as Matt Schlapp, the chairman of the American Conservative Union, got up and left in the middle of Michelle Wolf’s bit because he was tired of ‘elites mocking all of us.’
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Whether you agree with Michelle Wolf or think she went too far, she has definitely hit a nerve among many people. This dinner was a perfect example of selective outrage, which is beyond irritating regardless of what side of the aisle it’s coming from. When Matt Schlapp leaves in disgust from a comedian mocking elites but poses with somebody at a CPAC convention wearing a costume of Hillary Clinton in jail, there is an egregious double standard.
It’s pathetic to see those who defend a president who has stated over 3,000 false or misleading claims, mocked disabled reporters, immigrants and relentlessly attacked the press draw the line of morality at a dinner where a comedian took a few shots at liberals and conservatives alike. Of course, everyone pretending to be upset is just playing the game, and they’ve become very skilled at it, but it was immensely refreshing to see a comedian call them out for it. At the end of the day, it’s pretty simple — spare the people the selective outrage. You are either fine with mocking elites, or you won’t stand for it at all. Just pick.
Mitch Rogers ([email protected]) is a junior majoring in economics.