I heard comedian Michelle Wolf interviewed on the radio today. She made news Saturday at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner by tweaking chronic liars Sarah Huckabee Sanders and Kellyanne Conway, but one of her best lines was directed at the liar-in-chief and his symbiotic relationship with correspondents and their bosses:
What no one in this room wants to admit is that … [Trump has] helped you sell your papers and your books and your TV. You helped create this monster, and now you’re profiting off of him.
It wasn’t even a joke, but that’s my point. Wolf isn’t a dazzling wit in the style of Stephen Colbert, who skewers Donald Trump on a nightly basis for fans who already know Trump is doing great harm to the notion that we live in a democracy.
In fact, Wolf is about as subtle as a flying mallet, maybe because she knows you can’t get the attention of the journalists who enabled Trump without hitting them over the head with the obvious — i.e., that they knew Trump was unqualified to be president and deliberately failed to communicate this truth when it could have made a difference.
Remember, Trump lost the popular vote by a large margin, and there’s a good chance he would have lost the election if swing voters, and non-voters, had known more about his background. But most D.C.-based reporters rarely questioned Trump’s boastful lies while he was campaigning, choosing instead to present them as what Conway would call “alternative facts.”
By shining a brighter light on facets of Trump’s career — for example, his years as a corrupt and incompetent casino owner in Atlantic City — the media could have totally discredited him. They chose instead to soft-pedal his rotten personal history, lest they be accused of liberal bias, a charge that might adversely affect their ability to suck up to the insiders who provide them with so-called scoops.
Check out how Margaret Talev of the White House Correspondents’ Association responded to Wolf’s performance:
Last night’s program was meant to offer a unifying message about our common commitment to a vigorous and free press while honoring civility, great reporting, and scholarship winners, not to divide people. Unfortunately, the entertainer’s monologue was not in the spirit of that mission.
Talev is an idiot, or worse. A free press cares about truth, not civility. The truth will inevitably “divide people” because it alienates those who want to suppress it. Any journalist who doesn’t accept these common-sense facts should be working for the other side.
Footnote: I don’t mean to imply Colbert doesn’t pack a punch. He used the flying-mallet approach to crush George W. Bush at the 2006 correspondents’ dinner. At least Bush, unlike Trump, had enough balls to show up for the event.
Another: Sure, a lot of mainstream journalists are doing good work now and might help topple Trump, but where were they early on, when the beast was slouching toward Washington, D.C.?
One more: None of this is to let Hillary Clinton off the hook for the terrible campaign she ran. A better candidate would have overcome the media’s reluctance to tell the whole truth about Trump.