The Matter of Eyeshadow Is Overshadowing The Importance of The Free Press


The White House Press Correspondents’ Dinner is a tradition that has lasted decades. It’s supposed to be a light-hearted evening that mocks the President and his administration whilst celebrating the need for a free press. However, this year’s event has gained significant coverage for all the wrong reasons.

The comedienne Michelle Wolf (pictured below) created global controversy with her witty one-liner about press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders burning facts and using ‘that ash to create a perfect smoky eye’. I won’t lie, when I listened to that comment I laughed. Sure, it was a cheap shot and to make comments about someone’s appearance is always a dodgy move for a comic. However, from my view it was an amusing attack on Sanders’ lack of credibility rather than a critique of her appearance. In all honesty, I thought nothing of it.

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However, it seems I was in the minority. By the next morning Twitter had exploded, and every major American news network was covering the story; even the BBC had an entire article questioning whether Wolf had gone too far. It seems the biggest grievance Twitter’s false feminists had was that Wolf had ‘attacked’ Sanders based on her looks. Take for example the tweet from MSNBC’s Mika Brzezinski that ‘all women have a duty to unite’  when they’re attacked on the basis of their appearance. In the climate of the #MeToo movement it appears that any comment made in jest is immediately taken up as a cause for feminism.

Let’s just consider for a moment whether this severe slating of Wolf is fair. Firstly, the so-called attack she aimed at Sanders was not based around her appearance. If Wolf had blatantly stated that Sanders should be ashamed of how she looked, I’d be first in line to call her out on her prejudice. Instead, the quip was a clever critique on the press secretary’s constant deception used to defend the disastrous decisions of the president.

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Sanders has stood in the White House press briefing room and defended the president’s allegation that Mexicans are rapists. She has justified his decision to not openly criticise white nationalists. She has stood by while Muslims are side-lined, environmental issues are ignored and the healthcare system is hacked away piece by piece. Furthermore, when the slightest bit of criticism is aimed at her dearly beloved Donald, she’s quick to resort to the standard response of ‘you’re fake news’. In all honesty, this woman is deplorable in how she disregards the legitimacy of the free press in favour of protecting a sexist, racist and quite frankly, incompetent, president.

Suddenly, we’re supposed to feel sorry for her because someone called her out on her lies? You can try to twist it any way you want, but the barb made by Wolf was simply a way of highlighting the dishonesty of the Trump administration in a comedic way. The attempt to accuse Wolf of sexism is insanity, while Trump’s typical Twitter tirade that stated Wolf was ‘filthy’ and a ‘failure’ is laughably ironic.

Ultimately, the fact that this is even a news article in the first place is saddening. The 2018 White House Correspondents’ Dinner will now only be remembered for these few comments made in a 15-minute piece of entertainment.

Meanwhile, no one is talking about the speech of the President of the White House Correspondents’ Association, Margaret Talev. Her comments that ‘an attack on any journalist is an attack on us all’ have never been so important under an administration that aims to delegitimise those who hold it to account. Indeed, the Department of Justice recently removed a section from their internal manual that highlights the need for a free press. If that isn’t an attack on democracy – I don’t know what is.

The outcome of this event shouldn’t have been whether Sanders’ feelings were hurt. It should have been a celebration of all the work that credible journalists do to ensure that the public remains informed and the government accountable. It would be easy to discount the media as lazy liberal bias if you listen to the repetitive rhetoric of the Trump administration.

However, in 2016 alone, 115 journalists died in the line of duty – reporting from dangerous environments to bring the atrocities of the world to our attention. They’re a key pillar of democracy that keeps us informed and it’s an institution I hope to one day credibly represent. So, enough of the double standards about unjustified attacks. Wolf’s jibes were perhaps cutting, but there was an underlying truth to them that highlights how important it is to sustain strong support for journalists who are under attack now more than ever.


Third year History student with a passion for journalism. I have a particular interest in minority rights, historical comparisons and current affairs. Unapologetic feminist.

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