Journalists, politicians and members of the Donald Trump administration attended the annual White House Correspondents’ Association dinner Saturday night without the president, who spent the evening at a campaign rally in Michigan.
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“You may have heard I was invited to another event tonight — the White House Correspondents’ dinner,” the president told the crowd. “But I’d rather be in Washington, Michigan, than in Washington, D.C., right now.”
The president, who skipped the dinner for the second year in a row, called the event “phony.”
Comedian Michelle Wolf, a contributor to Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show with Trevor Noah,” headlined the event Saturday.
President Trump blasts Democrats, James Comey and the media in campaign-style rally
Tasos Katopodis/Getty ImagesOmarosa Manigault attends the 2018 White House Correspondents’ Dinner at Washington Hilton, April 28, 2018, in Washington, DC.
After scholarships and awards were given out, Wolf took the stage to deliver a bawdy and sometimes scathing send-up of not just Trump, but a list of targets spanning politics and media.
“It is kind of crazy that the Trump campaign was in contact with Russia when the Hillary campaign wasn’t even in contact with Michigan,” Wolf said early in her routine.
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders attended the dinner on Trump’s behalf.
“You know, one of the things we say in the South, if a Girl Scout egged your house, would you buy cookies from her? I think that this is a pretty similar scenario. There’s no reason for him to go in and sit and pretend like this is going to be just another Saturday night,” Sanders told ABC News before last year’s event.
Wolf mocked Sanders, who sat just two seats adjacent to her on the dais.
“Every time Sarah steps up to the podium, I get excited, because I’m not really sure what we’re going to get — a press briefing, a bunch of lies or divided into softball teams,” Wolf said.
Tasos Katopodis/Getty ImagesKellyanne Conway attends the 2018 White House Correspondents’ Dinner at Washington Hilton, April 28, 2018, in Washington, DC.
“I actually really like Sarah, I think she’s very resourceful,” Wolf continued. “She burns facts, and then she uses that ash to create a perfect smoky eye.”
Trump got his own shots in on the dinner from afar, telling the crowd in Michigan he was in a no-win situation.
“Is this better than that phony Washington White House Correspondents’ Dinner? Is this more fun?” he asked the crowd. “I could be up there tonight smiling, like I love where they’re hitting you, shot after shot. These people, they hate your guts.
“And then I’m supposed to … ” he continued, faking an exaggerated smile. “And you know, you’ve got to smile. And if you don’t smile they’ll say, ‘He was terrible, he couldn’t take a joke.’ And if you do smile, they’ll say ‘What was he smiling about?’ You know, there’s no win.”
Trump passed on last year’s dinner as well, instead hosting a similar rally in Pennsylvania for his supporters.
Tasos Katopodis/Getty ImagesHost Michelle Wolf attends the 2018 White House Correspondents’ Dinner at Washington Hilton, April 28, 2018, in Washington, DC.
Wolf went on to criticize the media for having too narrow a focus.
“Every hour it’s Trump, Russia, Hillary [Clinton] and a panel of four people that remind you why you don’t go home for Thanksgiving,” Wolf said. “You guys are obsessed with Trump.”
Wolf wrapped up her speech by accusing the news media of benefiting from the Trump administration.
“He’s helped you sell your papers, and your books and your TV,” she said. “You helped create this monster and now you’re profiting off of him.”
Marvin Joseph/The Washington Post via Getty Images, FILEHundreds attend the White House Correspondents Dinner 2017 at the Washington Hilton Hotel in Washington, D.C., April 29, 2017.
Margaret Talev, president of the White House Correspondents’ Association, in a statement, praised Wolf for her diverse background and for supporting the First Amendment and independent journalism.
“Her Pennsylvania roots, stints on Wall Street and in science and self-made, feminist edge make her the right voice now,” the statement read.
The last president not to attend the yearly dinner before Trump was President Ronald Reagan, who was shot less than a month before the event in 1981. Reagan made an appearance by telephone, however.
“Well, I’m happy to be speaking to the White House correspondents’ spring prom,” Reagan said. “I’m sorry that I can’t be there in person.”