By Megan Lehman
In November of 2016, Vice President Mike Pence attended the Broadway musical, Hamilton. At the end of the show, the actors gathered on stage to bow. During this time Brandon Victor Dixon, who played Aaron Burr, addressed Vice President Pence by saying, “We, sir — we — are the diverse America who are alarmed and anxious that your new administration will not protect us, our planet, our children, our parents, or defend us and uphold our inalienable rights,” he said. “We truly hope that this show has inspired you to uphold our American values and to work on behalf of all of us.”
This elicited a strong response from President Trump, in which he demanded the actor apologize for his comments. But what Pence did garnered more respect from me than the President’s response did. Pence did not retort nor behave as if anything was amiss. He left the theater smiling and was later said to have told his son that the remarks from the actors were the sounds of freedom, specifically freedom of speech.
Pence’s reaction was right. Dixon was utilizing his freedom of speech and whether or not you agree with what he said, he said it in a way I can respect. I have mixed feelings, however, about the performance of Michelle Wolf at the White House Correspondents Dinner.
I am a firm believer in the First Amendment. And I believe that using this freedom means using a great power not offered to all, especially women, in this world. I take it seriously. I try to remember that what I say will affect the way someone views me for the rest of my life. I question whether or not Michelle Wolf has the same perspective. Comedians at the Correspondents Dinner are there to push buttons and get laughs.
However, a lot of what Wolf put forth during the event was nothing more than a slew of just mean comments. In her article on Vox.com, Laura McGann subtitled her article, “The real reason Michelle Wolf is under attack is because her Sarah Sanders jokes are true,” as “Sarah Huckabee Sanders can dish it, but Republicans can’t take it.”
Being a Republican or a Democrat should have absolutely nothing to do with this. We are all humans. As a down-the-middle political hopeful, these comments left nothing but a bad taste in my mouth.
The president, for the second time, chose to attend a different event in place of the Correspondents’ Dinner. If he had attended this dinner, he would have had the opportunity to rebut and throw back jokes to defend himself and the team he has currently assembled. His lack of attendance was no less an insult to the team that he left hanging out to dry, allowing this verbal assault to hit them with no support or recourse.
The women of “The View,” unsurprisingly, discussed this very happening on their show, with one of the hosts claiming that we should not be holding our comedians to a higher standard than we would our president, whom many would argue has been just as vulgar and inappropriate with his speech.
But just like my Mama said when I was a little girl: Someone else’s bad behavior is no excuse for your own. If you want to condemn our president for being vulgar and inappropriate, you make it impossible for the world to take you seriously when you behave in the same way.
Long story short, our country’s Freedom of Speech is not on trial, but the way we present ourselves through the use of that freedom is important. Michelle Wolf used that freedom in a way that was shameful. And without the president there to make his case, there was no coming back from it.