Comedian attacks absent Trump, staff on hand at dinner

April 29 (UPI) — President Donald Trump wasn’t on hand to hear comedian Michelle Wolf attack him at the White House Correspondents’ dinner but several members of his administration were directly on the firing line of quips.

The former Daily Show contributor’s jokes Saturday night drew some laughs but there were gasps from the attendees, including journalists, in the Washington Hilton ballroom. Some Trump supporters and staff walked out during the 20-minute speech.

Press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who was criticized by Wolf, remained at the head table as Trump’s representative.

The president was returning from a campaign-style rally in Washington Township, Mich., during the formal dinner.

“People call Trump names all the time,” Wolf said. “And look, I could call Trump a racist, or a misogynist, or xenophobic, or unstable, or incompetent, or impotent. But he’s heard all of those and he doesn’t care. So tonight, I’m gonna try to make fun of the president in a new way, in a way that I think will really get him. Mr. President, I don’t think you’re very rich. You might be rich in Idaho, but in New York, you’re doing fine.”

Wolf also had attacked, sometimes crudely, Vice President Mike Pence, his daughter and senior adviser Ivanka Trump, counselor KellyAnn Conway as well as Republicans.

“I had a lot of jokes about cabinet members, but I had to scrap all of those because everybody has been fired,” she said.

Sanders and Conway sat stonefaced at the dinner while Wolf mentioned them.

“I actually really like Sarah. I think she’s very resourceful. [She] burns facts, and then she uses that ash to create a perfect smoky eye. Like, maybe she’s born with it, maybe it’s lies,” Wolf said as a television camera cut to Sanders at the head table.

The New York Times’ Maggie Haberman, who has been criticized in the past by Trump, blasted the personal attacks of Sanders, posting on Twitter: 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.

On Sunday, Wolf defended her comments on Twitter: “Hey mags! All these jokes were about her despicable behavior. Sounds like you have some thoughts about her looks though?”

Several other journalists also noted their disgust at the attacks, including NBC’s Mike Brzesinski, who tweeted: “Watching a wife and mother be humiliated on national television for her looks is deplorable,” and Andrea Mitchell, who wrote: “Apology is owed to @PressSec and others grossly insulted by Michelle Wolf at White House Correspondents Assoc dinner which started with uplifting heartfelt speech by @margarettalev – comedian was worst since Imus insulted Clinton’s”

Mercedes Schlapp, director of strategic communications, and her husband, conservative activist Matt Schlapp were among Trump officials who walked during her routine.

“My wife @mercedesschlapp and I walked out early from the wh correspondents dinner. Enough of elites mocking all of us,” Matt Schlapp posted on Twitter just before 11 p.m. Schlapp is the chairman of the American Conservative Union and his wife, Mercedes, is part of the White House’s communications team.

“It’s why America hates the out of touch leftist media elites,” Mercedes Schlapp wrote later on Twitter afterward.

And former Trump chief of staff Reince Priebus, the butt of a joke, on Twitter called the night an “R/X rated spectacle that started poorly and ended up in the bottom of the canyon. Another victory for @realDonaldTrump for not attending and proving his point once again. The room was uncomfortable. Trump lovers and even a large number of Trump haters were pretty miserable.”

Wolf also directed lines at Democrats, including former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, and the media

“It is kind of crazy the Trump campaign was in contact with Russia when the Hillary campaign wasn’t even in contact with Michigan. It’s a direct flight. It’s so close,” Wolf said.

And she said about the media: “You guys are obsessed with Trump. Did you used to date him? Because you pretend like you hate him, but I think you love him. I think what no one in this room wants to admit is that Trump has helped all of you.”

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, who is retiring after this year, appeared in a video message, that included humor, to the scholarship winners at the event and other future journalists.

“There’s so much noise out there, but our republic does not work without an informed electorate,” Ryan said. “Pay attention to the policy, not just the personalities. Look at the human impact, not just the horse race. And above all, challenge yourself to challenge us, those of us in to public office. Because what you do, it really matters. It provides transparency and accountability. Done right, journalism cannot just inform but empower citizens. Of course we don’t always agree on what’s right and what’s fair, but that push and pull, that makes us both better.”

White House Correspondents’ Association president Margaret Talev said, “We reject efforts by anyone, especially our elected leaders, to paint journalism as un-American.

“An attack on one journalist is an attack on us all,” Talev, a Bloomberg reporter and CNN analyst added.

Trump reacted to the two events Saturday, posting Sunday morning on Twitter: “While Washington, Michigan, was a big success, Washington, D.C., just didn’t work. Everyone is talking about the fact that the White House Correspondents Dinner was a very big, boring bust…the so-called comedian really “bombed.” @greggutfeld should host next year! @PeteHegseth”.