White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders has become the unlikely heroine of the debacle that was the White House Correspondents’ Dinner. Comedian Michelle Wolf savaged Administration figures over the weekend at the traditional roast and Sanders bore the brunt of the attack.
When attending a roast, the guests of honor should be prepared to be insulted and to accept it with good nature and Sanders did so. An eyewitness at the event, Benny Arthur Johnson, wrote a touching defense of Sanders on his personal Facebook page. Johnson, a reporter for the Daily Caller, wrote that it was Sanders who possessed “real power,” “strength,” and “class.”
In the interests of full disclosure, I’ll admit that I have not listened to Wolf’s routine in its entirety. The portions that I have listened to have been so unfunny, even to a critic of the Trump Administration, that I have no desire to sit through the full 20 minutes, particularly after having heard the shrill voice in which Ms. Wolf delivered the routine. Roasts are supposed to be savage, but they are also supposed to be funny. The funniest comedic insults are those that are based in truth, not simply an exercise in viciousness and meanness.
Johnson agrees that Wolf failed at being funny. “You could not really see it on TV, but virtually no one in the room was laughing,” Johnson wrote. “I saw even some of the most liberal reporters in the profession cringe with disgust,” adding that members of the White House press corps planned to send her a flower basket.
Johnson then tells the story of an MSNBC after-party following the dinner where he spoke with members of Sanders’ 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,” he said.
“’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,’” Johnson added.
“Then, Sarah Sanders walks into the party,” Johnson said. “The MSNBC party. A network that lives to savage and promote the godless vitriol that just attacked her. Guess what? Sarah Sanders was smiling. She owned it. 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.”
Other attendees agreed with Johnson’s assessment. New York Times correspondent Maggie Haberman tweeted, “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.”
Sanders’ response to the vicious attack also stands in sharp contrast to how her boss would have handled the situation. Where the press secretary reacted with silence and poise that made her seem strong, the president would certainly have fired back with a Twitter fusillade that would have seemed childish and only provoked further attacks and degenerated into an endless tit-for-tat.
I am not particularly a fan of Sarah Huckabee Sanders. Her job defending the often-indefensible behavior of President Trump is not one that I would want and I probably would not last very long in that role.
Nevertheless, I can appreciate her poise and grace in responding to Wolf’s attack. Her mature and dignified reaction certainly won the admiration of much of the country. Her maturity and strength are traits that the America sorely needs.
Originally published on The Resurgent