Add actor Robert DeNiro to the list of people rushing to defend Comedian Michelle Wolf after the White House Correspondents Association lost their sense of humor over Wolf’s supposedly offensive monologue at the White House Correspondents dinner last weekend.
DeNiro was attending the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s 45th Chaplin Award Gala on Monday evening when he addressed the topic.
“There was a lot of truth in Michelle Wolf’s jokes. And the bullies and liars are still intimidated by strength and the truth,” De Niro said according to The Washington Examiner.
“Where we run into trouble is when we allow the bullies and liars to dictate the conversation. The [Association] distanced themselves from Michelle Wolf’s performance. Shame on them — stand up, strap on your balls and deal,” the Oscar-winning actor continued.
The level of outrage over the jokes told by the former writer for The Daily Show — which were no harsher than usual for a dinner where the entire concept has always been to have a comedian roast the Washington elite that the press corps so fervently cover each day — reached a fever pitch immediately after the event.
Seasoned journalists who should know better attacked what they saw as over-the-top jabs at the physical appearance of White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders when a close listen to the actual content of Wolf’s jokes show not a single reference to Sanders’ appearance outside of a compliment to her make up skills.
Perhaps the suggestion that Sanders “burns facts, and then she uses that ash to create a perfect smoky eye” was too close to home for an audience that has to listen to her lies at White House Press briefings every day, and faced with the horror of their daily reality, the reporters decided that it was better to kill the messenger.
The White House Correspondents Association went beyond even that by announcing that they would “seriously consider changes to the dinner’s format.” It was this move that prompted DeNiro’s outrage and suggestion to grow a pair.
While some of the journalists at the event did disavow the criticism of Wolf, it was her fellow comedians who mounted the most vociferous defense of the embattled comic. Colleagues ranging from Jimmy Kimmel, Trevor Noah, Seth Meyers, Dave Chappelle, Kathy Griffin, and Stephen Colbert, many of whom have hosted the dinner themselves in the past, snapped to Wolf’s defense.
Perhaps the best reflection of the prevailing attitude other comics have towards the controversy over Wolf’s monologue comes from Judd Apatow, a man associated with some of the most successful comedies on TV and in Film for over a decade.
“It’s like going to a Billy Joel concert and being shocked he played ‘Piano Man,’” Apatow told The New York Times. “I believe it’s the best part of America. This is what you’re not allowed to do in other countries! You’re not allowed to speak openly! You’re not allowed to criticize the president!”
“This is the best thing we can do. We can say you’re safe to speak out in America,” Apatow concluded.
Given the response from some journalists at an event dedicated to freedom of the press, it’s difficult to discern how much longer we can safely make that claim.
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