Trump gives thumbs-down to comic at dinner

Darlene Superville
US President Donald Trump chose to skip the White House correspondents' dinner for a Michigan rally

The reviews are in: President Donald Trump has given a thumbs-down to the comedian who roasted his chief spokeswoman at the annual White House Correspondents' Association dinner.

The organisation's leader said she regretted that Michelle Wolf's routine may end up defining an evening that was designed to rally around journalism.

"Everyone is talking about the fact that the White House Correspondents Dinner was a very big, boring bust...the so-called comedian really "bombed," Trump tweeted on Sunday.

The president declined to attend the journalism awards dinner for the second consecutive year. He instead held a campaign rally in Michigan.

Wolf is known as a contributor on Comedy Central's The Daily Show With Trevor Noah. But some of her jokes, particularly a series of barbs about White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders as Sanders sat just feet away, seemed to spark the most outrage.

Sean Spicer, who preceded Sanders at the White House lectern, tweeted after dinner that the night "was a disgrace".

Others, including Ed Henry, chief national correspondent for Fox News and a former association president, and MSNBC's Morning Joe co-host Mika Brzezinski, called on the association to apologise to Sanders. Brzezinski has been the subject of personal attacks by Trump. Henry also called on Wolf to apologise.

Matt Schlapp, chairman of the American Conservative Union, tweeted that he and his wife, Mercedes Schlapp, director of strategic communications at the White House, walked out of the dinner. "Enough of elites mocking all of us," he said.

Margaret Talev, the association's president and Bloomberg News' senior White House correspondent, said she didn't want a dinner celebrating the constitutional right to free speech to be overshadowed by the ensuing uproar over Wolf's jokes.

"My only regret is that to some extent those 15 minutes are now defining four hours of what was a really wonderful unifying night and I don't want the cause of unity to be undercut," Talev said on Sunday on CNN's Reliable Sources.

Talev said she spoke to Sanders after Wolf's routine and "I told her that I knew that this was a big decision whether or not to attend the dinner, whether to sit at the head table and that I really appreciated her being there".

No Trump administration officials attended the dinner last year after Trump decided to skip it. Many were in the audience on Saturday night, however, including counsellor Kellyanne Conway, herself a target of Wolf, and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross.

Talev said that, by tradition, the association does not review the comedian's monologue before it is delivered.

"We don't censor it. We don't even see it," she said.