While the president's quips went over fairly well – he joked about his teleprompter use, chief-of-staff Rahm Emanuel's propensity for profanity, "fresh young face" Arlen Specter and Hillary Clinton offering a kiss after returning from swine-flu infested Mexico – Sykes' speech has prompted an outpouring of anger from conservatives upset over her comments about right-wing talk show host Rush Limbaugh.
Much of the speech, it should be pointed out, involved Sykes poking fun at Mr. Obama and members of his administration. (At one point, she quipped that she didn't need to see Mr. Obama's nipples – a reference to shirtless pictures of the president.) But the speech also included shots at Republicans, including Sarah Palin, and at one point veered into a relatively personal and vitriolic attack against Limbaugh.
Watch the video here:
"Boy, Rush Limbaugh said he hopes this administration fails – so you said you hope America fails," Sykes said in reference to the talk show host's past comments. "…To me, that's treason. He's not saying anything differently than what Osama bin Laden is saying. You know, you might want to look into this, sir, 'cause I think maybe Rush Limbaugh was the 20th hijacker, but he was just so strung out on Oxycontin he missed his flight."
The comment prompted a mixture of boos and laughter from the crowd.
"Too much?" Sykes asked the president, who was grinning. "But you're laughing inside."
"Rush Limbaugh – 'I hope the country fails,'" she continued. "I hope his kidneys fail, how 'bout that. He needs a good waterboarding, that's what he needs."
Sykes also said of Dick Cheney: "He scares me to death. I tell my kids, I say, 'Look, if two cars pull up and one has a stranger and the other car has Dick Cheney, you get in the car with the stranger.'"
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Photo Essay: The White House Correspondents Dinner. (AP)
The speech prompted highly-trafficked and conservative-leaning news aggregator the Drudge report to post a big picture of the president and the words "President Laughs At Wanda Sykes Joke About Rush Limbaugh: 'I Hope His Kidneys Fail'"
On MSNBC, Pat Buchanan said the joke was "was really over the top," adding, "it's gonna underscore that point that these people are all sort of laughing their heads off at the Republicans and conservatives."
The Washington Times' Amanda Carpenter told CNN's Howard Kurtz the joke went too far. "I mean, there is a willingness for these jokes to be a little saucy at these dinners," she said. "I think that went over the line."
Wrote Michelle Malkin of the entire speech: "Liberal comedian Wanda Sykes indulged in Palin-bashing, Rush Derangement Syndrome, and post-Bush/Cheney-induced psychosis while leftist journalists rubbed elbows with politicos and Tinseltown eye candy."
Twittered Jim Treacher: "Nothing better than smug lefties saying I have no sense of humor over a joke they'd be SCREECHING about if it targeted one of their own."
Added British journalist Toby Harnden:
Imagine if a comedian "joked" that Obama was a terrorist who was guilty of treason and should be tortured and allowed to die. There would justifiably be an outcry.UPDATE: White House press secretary Robert Gibbs was asked about Sykes' jokes at his briefing today.
But when the "joke" comes from a liberal, Obama-supporting comedienne and the target is a right-winger then the likes of Hilary Rosen and Donna Brazile are on CNN saying it's just comedy and Limbaugh is "fair game."
And Obama laughing when someone wishes Limbaugh dead? Hard to take from the man who promised a new era of civility and elevated debate in Washington.
Gibbs said that while he hasn't talked specifically with the president, he believes "there are a lot of topics that are better left for serious reflection rather than comedy."
"I think there's no doubt that 9/11 is part of that," Gibbs continued - apparently in reference to Sykes' "20th hijacker" comment.