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

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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’. Clearly to make comments about someone’s appearance is always a dodgy move for a comic. But, in my view this quip was an attack on Sanders’ crumbling credibility rather than a critique of her cosmetics. 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 crossed a controversial boundary. It seems the biggest grievance of Twitter’s false feminists was that Wolf had ‘attacked’ Sanders based on her image. Take for example the tweet from MSNBC’s Mika Brzezinski that ‘all women have a duty to unite’  when they’re judged by 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. If the holier-than-thou hypocrites were to take a step back, they would realise the so-called attack was not rooted in discrimination or reflective of an archaic mindset that values women by their visual presence. Rather, 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 object to the actions of 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 highlighted the very real dishonesty of the current administration. Trump’s typical Twitter tirade that stated Wolf was ‘filthy’ and a ‘failure’ is laughably ironic, but it is also reflective of a dangerous trend that aims to deny voices that criticise the presidency.

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 a government 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 then I don’t know what is.

The outcome of this event shouldn’t have been whether Sanders’ fragile feelings were hurt. It should have been a celebration of all the work that credible journalists do to ensure that the public remains informed. 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 bearing the responsibility of upholding institutional integrity. Wolf’s jibes were cutting, but there was a tangible truth to them that highlights how important it is to sustain strong support for journalists who are under attack now more than ever.

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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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