The vitriolic presidential campaign took a timeout Saturday night for a few laughs at the White House Correspondents Dinner and President Obama delivered much wit with plenty of punch and panache. But he didn’t joke much about being the first African-American president.
That chore fell to the African American comedian Larry Wilmore and his words left some hurt feelings among some viewers and pundits. One was Juan Williams, an African American liberal commentator on Fox News Sunday, who reacted with horror.
“Wilmore just dropped into the most scurrilous kind of language—racial language,” Mr. Williams said. “He used the ‘N word’… It was so awful. It was embarrassing to America but I think to black America it was degrading.”
Mr. Wilmore last year replaced Stephen Colbert on Comedy Central at 11:30 p.m. on weeknights. His most powerful racial language Saturday night came at the end, when he turned serious and recalled growing up in a nation that wasn’t ready to accept black men as football quarterbacks.
Now, he noted, an African American man is finishing his second term in the White House as leader of the free world.
“So, Mr. President, I’m going to ‘Keep it 100,’” Mr. Wilmore said, a term for unvarnished truth which he uses for a segment of his show. “Yo, Barry!” Mr. Wilmore exclaimed. “You did it, my nigga! You did it!”
As he spoke, Mr. Wilmore tapped his chest with his fist, a gesture that seemed to indicate he was speaking from the heart while using a form of one of the most controversial words in American English.
But he spoke it in an endearing way. He sounded the way black men sometimes sound when speaking among friends or of those they admire. He said it the way Italian American men call each other “paisan” or British men call each other “mate.”
Not everyone took offense.
“I don’t mind people using the ‘N word,’” Marc Lamont Hill, an African-American commentator, said right after the dinner on CNN. “Some people in the black community will read it as disrespect. That means he did his job. Good job, Larry!”
Mr. Wilmore, who followed President Obama, opened right on topic.
“Welcome to ‘Negro Night’ here in Washington,” Mr. Wilmore said. “Or, as Fox News will report, ‘Two thugs disrupt elegant dinner in D.C.’”
The usual Sunday shows used plenty of Mr. Obama’s jokes. But they stayed away from most of Mr. Wilmore’s more pointed humor, referring to his racial material in oblique ways but not showing him speaking.
On Media Buzz on Fox, host Howard Kurtz voiced his disapproval.
“I thought he went over the line with some of his racially charged jokes,” Mr. Kurtz said. “Dropping the ‘N word’ at the end of his routine. That was really unnecessary and bothered a lot of people.”
One of Mr. Wilmore’s jokes without the ‘N-word’ used a different racial slur most people—even racists—rarely speak or hear anymore. It came in a riff about Dr. Ben Carson, an African-American and retired surgeon who was briefly a Republican presidential candidate.
Mr. Wilmore spoke of how the picture of the black abolitionist Harriet Tubman will eventually replace that of President Andrew Jackson on the $20 bill. In that Dr. Carson called President Jackson a “tremendous president,” Mr. Wilmore reported:
“From the grave, Andrew Jackson replied, ‘What did that jigaboo say?’”
Lucifer could not be reached for comment.
Now, the Monday morning highlights of the Sunday morning shows:
STATE OF THE UNION Host Jake Tapper on CNN wasted little time getting to Mr. Obama’s jokes, especially about Donald Trump, the leading contender for the Republican nomination.
“I’m a little hurt that he’s not here,” Mr. Obama said. “Is this dinner too tacky for The Donald? What could he possibly be doing instead? Is he at home, eating a Trump Steak? Tweeting out insults to Angela Merkel?”
Referring to the next President who will address next year’s dinner, Mr. Obama said, “It’s anyone’s guess who she will be.”
That referred to Hillary Clinton, the leading Democratic candidate, who spoke to Mr. Tapper of her rival, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont and his large following of idealistic, young supporters.
“We have far more in common than they do with Donald Trump or any other Republican,” Ms. Clinton said. When asked about Mr. Trump’s major foreign policy speech last week, Ms. Clinton said: “I found it disturbing… I don’t think loose talk about loose nukes is a very smart way to go forward.”
In an oblique comment spurred by Mr. Trump’s words, Ms. Clinton said:
“I have a lot of experience dealing with men who sometimes get off the reservation in the way they behave and how they speak. I’m not going to deal with their temper tantrums or their bullying or their efforts to try to provoke me.”
Mr. Tapper also interviewed Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, who could be semi-officially eliminated Tuesday if he loses the Indiana primary to Mr. Trump. Mr. Tapper asked about how former House Speaker John Boehner referred to Mr. Cruz as “Lucifer in the flesh” and a “miserable son of a bitch.”
Mr. Boehner is also a Republican. Lucifer is a former angel banished from Heaven to Hell. Lucifer could not be reached for comment.
“He kind of let out his inner Trump,” said Mr. Cruz, who turned his aim from Mr. Boehner toward Mr. Trump, who calls Mr. Cruz “Lyin’ Ted.”
“He really has four responses to any outside stimulus,” Mr. Cruz said. “He either yells, screams, whines or insults.”
A funny segment of the show captured Caitlyn Jenner—formerly Bruce—in a cell phone video going into and coming out of a women’s restroom in one of Mr. Trump’s Manhattan buildings. Mr. Cruz has been warning of “grown men” invading the restrooms of “little girls.” It’s his way of defending North Carolina’s LGBT discrimination laws.
“And, by the way, Ted, nobody got molested,” Ms. Jenner said.
In a free-flowing discussion with aides to the major contenders, Trent Duffy of the John Kasich team predicted bad things if Mr. Trump gets nominated.
“It’ll be a blood bath,” Mr. Duffy said. “Donald Trump will do for the Democrats what they couldn’t do for themselves, which is to win the White House.” Jeff Weaver of the Sanders campaign was more wary.
“He’s a very dangerous threat to Democrats,” Mr. Weaver said of Mr. Trump.
‘I think Lucifer may be the only person Trump could beat in a general election… Trump polls like Lucifer… Trumpism will get creamed at the ballot box.’
FACE THE NATION On CBS, host John Dickerson presented video of Mr. Trump, escorted by a swarm of Secret Service bodyguards, making a difficult walk to a speech near San Francisco because he wanted to avoid protestors.
“Felt like I was crossing the border, actually,” Mr. Trump said, a snide reference to two of his core aims: to deport 11 million Mexicans and to build a wall on the border with that nation.
Mr. Cruz—who made the rounds everywhere Sunday—said Mr. Trump “is attempting to perpetuate one of the greatest frauds of modern elections” because he is in with the in crowd of people who use donations to buy and sell political influence.
In that Mr. Trump has predicted riots in Cleveland if he is denied the nomination at the convention in July, Mr. Cruz said there would be no such thing, even if he manages to influence delegate to extend the proceedings to multiple ballots and deny Mr. Trump the victory.
“Although Donald may do everything he can to encourage riots,” Mr. Cruz said.
Mr. Cruz—who looks like old Joe McCarthy and talks like Dick Nixon—then said Mr. Trump was “proudly trumpeting” the support of ex-boxer Mike Tyson, who served three years for rape in Indiana in the 1990s.
Mr. Cruz said Mr. Trump called Mr. Tyson a “tough guy.” Some of Mr. Trump’s foes have accused him of hating women.
“You know what, John?” Mr. Cruz said to Mr. Dickerson. “I don’t think rapists are tough guys. Donald may be really proud of his support from a convicted rapist.”
Lindsey Graham, the Republican Senator from South Carolina, noted “there’s been a lot of talk about Lucifer” and added “I think Lucifer may be the only person Trump could beat in a general election… Trump polls like Lucifer… Trumpism will get creamed at the ballot box. There’s a civil war going on in the Republican Party… Women and Hispanics hate his guts for good reason.”
Oh, but he wasn’t finished.
“Hillary Clinton is an incredibly flawed candidate,” Mr. Graham said. “But she will mop the floor with Donald Trump… he’s so harsh… he’s so cruel… he’s so insulting. If you’re embracing Donald Trump, you’re destroying conservatism… He’s toxic for conservatism.”
Mr. Trump also was mocked, more lightly, in a clip of President Obama speaking of Mr. Trump’s grasp of foreign affairs at the banquet Saturday night.
Mr. Trump used to run beauty pageants. Among the world leaders he’s met, Mr. Obama said, are “Miss Sweden, Miss Argentina…” Mr. Dickerson also showed of the President saluting Mr. Sanders, the only presidential contender sitting in the audience Saturday.
“Bernie, you look like a million bucks,” Mr. Obama said. “Or, to put it in terms you’ll understand, you look like 37,000 donations of $27 each.”
The hits just kept on coming. Next was Mr. Obama’s view on Mr. Trump closing the Gitmo prison camp, as Mr. Obama has tried to do.
“Trump knows a thing or two about running waterfront properties into the ground,” Mr. Trump said.
On the panel, Molly Ball of The Atlantic said she’s heard some Republicans say “If Cruz is the nominee, maybe it will sort of break the fever of the conservative grass roots. It’ll be Goldwater all over again and maybe this time we’ll get the point.”
China has trains that go 300 miles per hour and ‘We have the Long Island Rail Road that can hardly move.’
FOX NEWS SUNDAY Mr. Trump reared his hairy head for the first time in four weeks of Sunday shows. He chose the network closest to his views. He told host Chris Wallace that violent protestors at his Orange County, Calif., event were “professional agitators.”
“These are wise guys that stomp on policemen’s cars,” Mr. Trump said. (Not “police cars.” It’s “police-MEN’s cars.”)
Mr. Wallace pressed Mr. Trump about his recent comments that Ms. Clinton would not have more than five percent of voter support if she were not a woman. He didn’t appreciate Mr. Wallace finding fault.
“Really?” Mr. Trump said. “O.K. Well, I’m my own strategist. I liked what I said. It’s true. I only tell the truth. The fact is, the only card she had is the woman’s card. Even women don’t like her and it’s true. If she were not a woman, she wouldn’t even be in this race.”
Speaking off-handedly about the executed Saddam Hussein of Iraq, Mr. Trump said: “Isn’t it too bad that we knocked him out in the first place?” This is not a common Republican point of view. President George W. Bush made bringing down Mr. Hussein the centerpiece of his presidency when he invaded Iraq in 2003.
“We spent $4 trillion,” Mr. Trump said, and we are worse off than we were before we fired the first gunshot of the conquest.
Mr. Trump had a lot on his mind and—being on remote camera—bulldozed through Mr. Wallace’s attempts to question him. He just pretended he didn’t hear Mr. Wallace.
He said China has trains that go 300 miles per hour and “We have the Long Island Rail Road that can hardly move. We’re like a Third World country.”
Mr. Trump noted that he had the endorsement of Bobby Knight, the former Indiana basketball coach. While coaching the Hoosiers, Mr. Knight put a tampon in a male player’s locker to express disapproval of his play.
When discussing rape, Mr. Knight once said if a woman can’t stop it she should lie back and enjoy it.
He said Mr. Knight was only one of many supporters who “are unbelievable.” He didn’t seem to mean it literally.
In his weekly homily, Trump hater George Will told Mr. Wallace and the panel that Mr. Trump’s foreign policy speech was like a Cornish game hen.
“Mostly bone, I’m afraid,” Mr. Will said. “Not much meat.”
Mr. Will said Mr. Trump suffers from “Narcissistic Policy Disorder” because he blames Mr. Obama for making Iran a great power.
The disorder, Mr. Will said, is “the belief that everything that happens in the world is because of something we did or didn’t do.”
Karl Rove said Mr. Trump’s speech had “so many contradictions” and “there’s no plan here.”
MEET THE PRESS Yes, that was Mr. Cruz again, this time bulldozing host Chuck Todd, who kept trying to get Mr. Cruz to say whether or not he would back Mr. Trump if Mr. Trump is nominated.
Mr. Cruz preferred to discuss other things. He accused Mr. Trump of yelling and screaming and cursing and insults and bullying. Continuing a theme in heavy rotation Sunday, he said Mr. Trump and Ms. Clinton are two sides of the same coin because they are East Coast insiders.
“We are at the edge of a cliff,” Mr. Cruz said, warning the nation of “the three-card monte game being played by Donald Trump. He is laughing at his supporters. He is mocking his supporters because he’s lying to them.”
Ron Fournier congratulated Mr. Todd for trying.
“Boehner might’ve said that he’s Lucifer,” Mr. Fournier said. “But you gave him hell.”
Thomas Friedman of The New York Times fretted that so many of Mr. Trump’s supporters “seem to be listening through their stomachs, not their ears. He’s made a gut connection.” Mr. Friedman spoke of contradictions in Mr. Trump’s foreign policy speech.
He mentioned “supporting Saudi Arabia even though we know they were behind” the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
“On foreign policy, like every other issue, Trump has done zero homework,” Mr. Friedman said.
He also offered a dire prediction.
FRIEDMAN: “If there is an act of terrorism in late October, early November, it’s going to redound in Donald Trump’s favor in ways that are highly unpredictable.”
TODD: “So you think we’re a terrorist attack away from President Trump?”
FRIEDMAN: “Could be, Chuck.”
Then it was on to another highlight from Saturday night, the President teasing Mr. Sanders for “distancing himself” from Mr. Obama.
“That’s just not something you do to your comrade,” Mr. Obama said.
The President promised that if his joke material worked at the banquet, he’d use it again when speaking to Goldman Sachs when he is out of office.
“Earn me some serious Tubmans,” Mr. Obama said.
THIS WEEK George Stephanopoulos was replaced for the day by Martha Raddatz on the ABC show. She interviewed—yes!—Mr. Cruz, who unloaded some of his biggest ammunition on Mr. Trump.
He called Mr. Trump “A big-government liberal just like Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.
“Donald’s so-called foreign policy speech this week… written by a bunch of Washington lobbyists,” Mr. Cruz said. “It’s outsourced to lobbyists who get rich off foreign tyrants.”
Attempting to lighten the mood, Ms. Raddatz—perhaps reflecting on Saturday’s soiree—asked Mr. Cruz “Have you found any humor in this election or can you poke fun at yourself in any way?”
“I laugh every day,” Mr. Cruz said. “We’re running a joyful campaign… we’re having fun… people can tell…” Mr. Cruz said he can laugh off Mr. Trump’s personal slurs. Then he pivoted mean.
“I am sure you laughed out loud watching Donald Trump’s speech on foreign policy,” Mr. Cruz told Ms. Raddatz, “where he talked about ‘Tan-ZANEY-a.’ I’m sorry. I’m not familiar with that country. ‘Tan-ZANEY-a.’ Maybe that’s where two Corinthians live.”
On the panel, E.J. Dionne suggested some Republicans are beginning to fear opposing Mr. Trump. He said there was a “deep split” in the party.
“If he is nominated, the disaster in November could be extraordinary,” Mr. Dionne said, presumably about the entire Republican ticket.
The conversation got more serious when Ms. Raddatz interviewed former defense secretary Robert Gates, who has worked for both Democratic and Republican administrations.
He called Mr. Trump “somebody who doesn’t understand the difference between a business negotiation and negotiation with sovereign powers.”
Mr. Trump spoke of American reliability, Mr. Gates said, and then in the next breath promised to rip up all those burdensome agreements in place for decades with other nations, like those in NATO.
“He doesn’t understand there is a give and take in international relations that is different in the business community,” Mr. Gates said. “He talks about ‘walking.’ How do you walk away from China, a country that holds a trillion dollars in U.S. treasuries and with which we have a half a trillion dollars in trade every year?”
Mr. Gates said he didn’t understand how Mr. Trump could launch a trade war with China and ask them at the same time to put pressure on North Korea.
“One of the things that worries me, Martha, is he doesn’t appear to listen to people. He believes that he has all the answers, that he’s the smartest man in the room.”
Nobody has all the answers, Mr. Gates said, and wise presidents listen to many others before making their lonely decisions. Mr. Gates wondered if Mr. Trump would do the same and voiced fears.
“His unpredictability, his lack of understanding of the complexity of international affairs,” Mr. Gates said. “His threats. His claim that he’s going to make other countries do things, both friends and adversaries.”
ABC’s version of the Trump-Tyson alliance was sharply focused, using old videotape from more than two decades ago of a younger Mr. Trump trying to keep a younger Mr. Tyson out of prison. Mr. Trump seemed to be blaming the victim for her own rape.
“A young woman that was in his room, his hotel room, late in the evening,” Mr. Trump said—and then: “ Who has been seen dancing for the beauty contest, dancing with a big smile on her face.”
Then came the voice of the current-day Tyson saying “I like Trump, yeah. He should be President of the United States.” Next was an old still photo of Mr. Trump and Mr. Tyson, years ago, sharing a big grin.
A real reason to smile came shortly thereafter with another clip of a presidential quip at the banquet. Mr. Obama bragged about his increasingly popular poll numbers.
“The last time I was this high, I was trying to decide on my major,” Mr. Obama said.
RELIABLE SOURCES Early on, Brian Stelter of CNN used one of Mr. Obama’s more sarcastic jokes from Saturday, this one about the news media and its coverage of Mr. Trump.
“Following your lead, I want to show some restraint,” he said, “because I think we can all agree that he’s gotten the appropriate amount of coverage befitting the seriousness of his candidacy.”
The President paused.
“I hope y’all are proud of yourselves,” Mr. Obama said. “The guy wanted to give his hotel business a boost and now we’re praying that Cleveland makes it through July.”
He paused again.
“Mmmm-HUMPH!” he said.
MEDIA BUZZ Host Howard Kurtz on Fox is the nation’s guardian of all that is fair and balanced in journalism. He read a piece of a New York Times story about Mr. Trump and Ms. Clinton that offended him.
“He is likely to attack her because she is a woman in ways that many women find sexist,” Mr. Kurtz said, reading from the story. Mr. Kurtz expressed deep concern that the journalist had made a sinful step into opinion.
One of his guests, Susan Ferrechio of The Washington Examiner, didn’t care to hear it.
“He has a track record of doing this,” she said of Mr. Trump. “He’s established himself as a man who is willing to go after a woman based on the fact that she is a woman and many people consider that to be a sexist move.”
When asked again such an observation belonged in a straight news story, Ms. Ferrechio replied: “Why not? I consider it a fact. I mean, it’s true. He has done it over and over and over again.”
Disclosure: Donald Trump is the father-in-law of Jared Kushner, the publisher of Observer Media.