Opinion: Wanda Sykes sees the humor of 9/11; White House not

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Everybody’s a comedian until they have to actually be funny. And that is an awful lot harder.

As The Ticket noted here with a full transcript, President Barack Obama pulled off his written jokes Saturday night at the White House Correspondents dinner with near-perfect timing. Some with real barbs.


Wanda Sykes was the hired jokester for the evening of topical humor and as often happens when such personalities venture out of nightclubs and into hotel ballrooms, many watching in tuxedos or on TV thought she might have gone too far with a couple of her lines.

(UPDATE: Sykes in an interview with Extra says she was warned not to use any F-bombs or the N-word and she was insulted by the suggestion she might.)

But she did take on a favorite Democratic target, the conservative Rush Limbaugh, and his previous substance abuse as the most listened-to and talked-about radio talk show host. Fair enough perhaps. He’s taken on the president.

But to top it off, Sykes then tied Limbaugh to the tragedy and mass murders of 9/11.

‘I think maybe Rush Limbaugh was the 20th hijacker. But he was so strung out on Oxycontin that he missed his flight ... I hope his kidneys fail. How about that?’

Limbaugh said he had no comment.

But today, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, as he knew he would, was asked about the reaction of the president, who also spoke at the annual banquet, but as another invited guest of the correspondents association.

To protect the president, no doubt no fan of Limbaugh, Gibbs said he had not talked to Obama specifically about the ‘joke.’ And the White House had nothing to do with booking such celebrities, risky or not.

But Gibbs put the White House down firmly on the side of Sykes’ critics, saying some things should be subjects of serious reflection and not comedy and he felt the president would list 9/11 as one of them.

Watch the president in this video; see if you think he disagrees with Sykes at that moment. So, hoping Obama fails is outrageous, but hoping someone dies from kidney failure is funny.

Then watch how Gibbs puts it today in the second video below.

-- Andrew Malcolm

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