“I wouldn’t change a single word that I said,” Wolf told NPR’s Terry Gross in an interview airing Tuesday on WHYY’s Fresh Air. “I’m very happy with what I said, and I’m glad I stuck to my guns.”
Wolf, a former Daily Show comedian, is facing backlash over her act from some conservatives and members of the media, many of whom took particular issue with her jokes about White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who was present at the dinner.
Wolf has taken to Twitter to fire back at some critics — including New York Times White House correspondent Maggie Haberman and MSNBC host Mika Brzezinski — who have accused her of cracking jokes about Sanders’ appearance. Wolf tweeted that all the comments were not about Sanders’ looks but rather her “despicable behavior” as press secretary.
Though Haberman praised Sanders for “[absorbing] intense criticism of her physical appearance, her job performance, and so forth, instead of walking out, on national television,” Wolf tells NPR she wasn’t so impressed with the press secretary’s behavior at the dinner.
“There’s plenty where you could look back and the camera was on [then-President] Obama when people were making pretty aggressive jokes about Obama and he was laughing,” Wolf says. “And I think having the ability to laugh at yourself is important … another part of the dinner that wasn’t televised is they were giving out awards and everyone was standing to congratulate the people who were getting awards and Sarah was sitting.”
Wolf said she believed Sanders was sitting in protest of a media that’s much-maligned by her boss, President Donald Trump. “I would say if this is about celebrating the media she wasn’t there to celebrate the media,” Wolf added.
The comedian was also asked whether she thought it sexist that some people seemed to think Sanders “as a woman needs to be protected from a couple of jokes at a roast.”
“Yeah. If there are two people that I actually made fun of their looks on Saturday it was Mitch McConnell and Chris Christie and no one is jumping to their defense,” Wolf replied. “I made fun of Mitch McConnell’s neck and I did a small jab at Chris Christie’s weight and no one is jumping to their defense.”
Wolf joked about Sanders’ lying at the dinner but did not mock her physical appearance. At one point the comic quipped that Sanders was “very resourceful”: “She burns facts and then she uses that ash to create a perfect smoky eye. Maybe she’s born with it, maybe it’s lies. It’s probably lies.”
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She also compared Sanders to Aunt Lydia, the cruel mistress of enslaved women portrayed by actress Ann Dowd the The Handmaid’s Tale. Vulture writes that, rather than drawing a comparison between the two women’s looks, however, Wolf was suggesting that like the character of Aunt Lydia, “Sanders acts as a complicit oppressor on behalf of an authoritarian government.”
Wolf also mocked White House counselor Kellyanne Conway at the dinner, joking that she “has the perfect last name for what she does: Conway.”
Sanders did not immediately respond to PEOPLE’s request for comment on Monday.
But President Trump, who held a campaign-style rally in Michigan instead of attending the dinner, was among those to critique Wolf’s performance, twice tweeting that she “bombed.”
Wolf told NPR she wasn’t expecting this level of criticism over her act but said she knew what she was getting herself into when she accepted the gig.
“I wanted to do something different. I didn’t want to cater to the room. I wanted to cater to the outside audience, and not betray my brand of comedy,” she said. “I actually, a friend of mine who helped me write, he gave me a note before I went on which I kept with me which was, ‘Be true to yourself. Never apologize. Burn it to the ground.’ “