April 30, 2016. The day our nation lost its innocence.
The White House Correspondents Dinner is known as a much-deserved break for our nation’s top reporters (and also my longtime nemesis Jake Tapper), a night where people who ask hard questions for a living get to let their hair down, sip some bubbly, and remember their funny bones.
Luminaries such as Walter Cronkite and Arthur Kent have yukked it up at the event’s uproarious comedy skits — such as Richard Nixon pretending to find the secret list of State Department Jews at the 1969 dinner, or George W. Bush’s hysterical “whose limb is this?” 2004 routine where he pretended to be in Fallujah.
But while the jokes and jibes of the WHCD have always been cutting and witty, this year, one man took it too far. Saturday night, Larry Wilmore disgraced himself, the White House Correspondent’s Association, the United States, Viacom, and President Obama.
First Wilmore attacked Wolf Blitzer, the alpha dog of the news. Where did you gather this temerity, Larry? Wolf not only faces down terrifying politicians such as Marco Rubio and Lincoln Chafee, but also provides a calm voice of reason to Americans on election night. (I don’t just speak for myself when I say that Wolf’s reassuring timbre eases my entire being when he declares, “we have a Lexus Summer Sales Event Breaking News Election Update: North Carolina is still too close to call.”)
Wilmore somehow outdid himself, though. Because at the end of his hideous act, the African-American comic playfully called Barack Obama “my n****.”
As I rushed to and from the bathroom, that phrase swirled in my head. Did Wilmore understand the hallowed years of Correspondents’ Dinners he had disrespected? It sure didn’t seem like it.
The verbal violence that Wilmore released caused tremors almost immediately. At an afterparty, bright young Fox News contributor Jesse Watters and Huffington Post prospect Ryan Grim engaged in fisticuffs. Neither of these exceptionally smart kids are the type to throw fists like Heineken-addled Boston dockworkers. There’s no doubt that Wilmore removing the civility of the discourse as he did awakened baser instincts inside them.
Mr. Wilmore, I am not a comedian. I am a father, a pundit, and a Polk Award-nominated 30-year insider of political reporting. But there’s one thing I understand that you never will: how to tell an appropriate joke that makes everyone laugh without feeling uncomfortable or threatened.
So let me help you out. I may not be a comedian, but this is the WHCD roast you should have (and I would have) given:
CARL DIGGLER’S WHCD SPEECH
Thank you, thank you everyone! You’re too kind. I haven’t heard this much applause from this crowd since Paul Wellstone’s plane crashed! [laughter, even more applause]
I realize it’s unusual for a respected Beltway insider pundit, and not a comedian, to give the big speech. But what can I say? They had a budget this year! [laughter]
It’s an honor to be here on stage in front of my fellow journalists, or as I call them, “competition!” [laughter] But seriously, if you guys have any insider sources… I’ll be surprised! [laughter]
Wolf Blitzer is here tonight. Is anyone else as sick as I am of his insider acumen? Hey Wolf, leave some respectability for the rest of us. [crying, applause]
I see the MSNBC and Fox News tables are next to each other. Hey, don’t get too cozy, you guys, you might start cooperating on solving our nation’s problems through No Labels-style moderation! [applause, hugging]
Chief Justice John Roberts is here tonight. Hey John, let me know if you need any legal advice: I’ve been representing myself in family court for the past ten years and winning several key motions to admit Twitter evidence. [applause, recognition for legal genius]
I want to talk about that big orange ball we’re all focused on right now. No, I don’t mean the basketball that sports-lovers care about. I mean John Boehner! [laughter, standing ovation] Boehner called Ted Cruz Satan. Satan? A beautiful angel who rebelled against a loving God, fell from Heaven, and became Lord of Hell? Are you talking about Ted Cruz or my ex-wife? [laughter, continuing ovation]
So, how about this primary? Hey Bernie, if you feel like you need some more votes, you should check for Mitt Romney’s binder full of women! [laughter, some people die of laughter] Bernie, Bernie, check page 17: that’s the number of delegates your failed campaign has won so far! [deafening laughter as Bernie shamefully walks out, rotting fruit being thrown at him]
Hillary is here tonight. Hillary, how about her? [scattered applause] Hey, I sent you an e-mail last year. Did Sid Blumenthal forward it to you, or what? [laughter] I’m no Mark Penn, but here’s some advice: don’t drop the soap! [huge laughter in recognition of Hillary’s impending indictment]
Now, Donald Trump [audience “ooohs”], Donald Trump isn’t here tonight. I guess he’s too busy making America great again. [laughter] You know, Donald Trump has a lot of experience building hotels. Do you think his border wall to keep the non-whites out will come with mints on the pillows? [huge laughter] I hear he wants to murder the families of terrorists… someone better tell the moms of these basement-dwelling Bernie Bros! [massive laughter, some people have heart attacks]
Ted Cruz is the Zodiac Killer. [massive laughter shakes the foundation of the building, causing a momentary panic]
Now, let me turn to the two most important people in the room, the people we’re all here for: Alan K. Simpson and Erksine Bowles. [laughter in recognition of these heroic bipartisan entitlement reformers] No, no, I’m kidding. Of course I’m talking about President Obama and the First Lady.
Mister President, your daughter just got into Harvard. [applause] You know, a lot of these Ivy League schools have “safe spaces” now. I think that denotes an area that the disgusting, America-hating imp Rand Paul is banned from. [laughter] I didn’t go to Harvard myself. I’m a Wellesley man. [applause]
And you, Madam First Lady, you look beautiful tonight. [wolf whistles, hooting] You’re practically blushing. You remind me of my wife the night before our wedding when I gazed deep into her eyes and said, “why don’t we get married?” [women in the audience “aww,” look at me with a newfound respect for my romantic qualities]
[I look at my Blackberry Watch in an exaggerated fashion] Well, look at the time. [laughter] I’ve been talking for so long you’d think I was Bernie on the Senate floor, delivering one of his useless filibusters against the billionaiuhs and the childwen who are stawving. [massive laughter, standing ovation]
All jokes aside, Mr. President, I want to thank you for 8 years of being my honorable opponent in this cat-and-mouse game of journalist and politician. [audience awws]
We’ve had our dust-ups, of course. When you told us a drone bombing had murdered an American citizen, I demanded to know the name of the computer whiz hero who piloted that drone. When you said Obamacare deductibles for low income people were going to be above $10,000, I demanded to know if that would include death panel and partial birth abortion fees.
But although we are antagonists in our professional lives, at the end of the day, we are human beings. We’re two men who can share a drink and swap stories about the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune in this crazy town we call Washington!
And that, Larry Wilmore, is how it’s done. [mic drop]
Carl “The Dig” Diggler has covered national politics for 30 years, and is the author of “Think-ocracy: The Rise Of The Brainy Congressman”. Got a question for the Dig? E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org or Tweet to @carl_diggler.
To try CAFE’s Morning Shot email, sign up here.