WASHINGTON — In her speech before the Washington Press Club Foundation on Wednesday night, Rep. Nancy Mace, R-S.C., launched into an uncommonly sharp comedic monologue that skewered just about everyone from gun-loving Rep. Lauren Boebert to progressive Rep. Ilhan Omar.
At one point, she turned toward Rep. Maxwell Frost, D-Fla., the first member of Gen Z elected to Congress. “He’s 25 years old,” she joked. “F*** you. I have stretch marks your age.”
Mace ended her routine with a risky joke about the violent Jan. 6 riot that attacked the Capitol Building in 2021. I know everyone thinks Republicans aren't funny. But if you get a bunch of us together, we can be a real riot."
Some laughed. Some gasped. So it went.
The following morning, she was praised by the New Republic for "genuinely solid quips," though Axios suggested that her Republican-focused jokes "were so sick that it could put her in hot water" with GOP leaders, who have tended to be wary of her high profile and independence.
All of @RepNancyMace George Santos jokes from @washpressclub dinner in one video, including:— Howard Mortman (@HowardMortman) February 9, 2023
“Really, who lies about playing college volleyball? Who does that? If you’re gonna lie, at least make it about something big, like you actually won the 2020 presidential election.” pic.twitter.com/YncvIjrSjE
“I love exercising First Amendment rights and have fun doing it,” Mace told Yahoo News on Wednesday morning, as news articles chronicled her colorful routine
Democrats hardly got off any easier than Republicans.
Donald Trump, Joe Biden, defeated Senate candidate Herschel Walker: Nobody was seemingly spared from Mace’s fusillade of barbs — not even the press, which hosted the lavish proceedings at the Waldorf Astoria, formerly, the Trump Hotel.
“I hope that C-SPAN has a buzzer or a bleep because this shit is about to get real, okay? It only goes downhill from here,” she warned in the midst of remarks.
C-SPAN did not censor Mace’s several profanities.
No feeling unites Democrats and Republicans like suspicion of the press, giving Mace perhaps the easiest and most obvious target of the evening.
“To all the New York Times reporters, good evening,” Mace said near the opening of a 12-minute affair that quickly revealed itself to be less C-SPAN speech than Comedy Central roast. “And to everybody from the Washington Post, good luck on your job search,” she said in reference to the newspaper’s recent layoffs.
Sitting on the stage next to the podium where she was speaking, Washington Press Club Foundation President Seung Min Kim, a White House reporter for the Associated Press, looked by turns uncomfortable and amused.
Mace has always had a rebellious streak, though some have questioned how deep that streak runs. Deep enough, apparently, to savage members of her own party.
“There’s one reason I was chosen to be the Republican speaker tonight, and it's because Kevin McCarthy couldn't get the votes,” she said of the House speaker, who needed a historic — and embarrassing, some said — 15 rounds of voting to secure the position.
She added of McCarthy: “I haven't seen some of those in that many positions to appease crazy Republicans since Stormy Daniels,” referring to former President Donald Trump’s alleged onetime paramour, an adult actress.
But, she continued, “We all knew that Matt Gaetz would never let the vote get to 18,” a reference to the Florida congressman’s alleged sex traffic of minors.
Mining his legal troubles for easy laughs, Mace said that Gaetz “really, really wanted to be here tonight, but he couldn’t find a babysitter.”
It was perhaps her most successful joke of the night, at least judging by the audience’s reaction.
Another easy target was embattled fabulist Rep. George Santos, R-N.Y., who has emerged as an embarrassment for congressional Republicans since his long list of biographical lies emerged.
“"C'mon, George, you give Republicans a bad name. And that's Lauren Boebert's job,” Mace said, referring to another one of her GOP colleagues.
She and Boebert, an unabashed gun enthusiast, have feuded before. Wednesday night is unlikely to bring the two women closer.
“Just kidding, Lauren, don’t shoot,” Mace said after a dramatic pause.
Boebert’s office did not respond to a request for comment.
Mace carried a printed version of her remarks in a folder marked “Classified,” according to Politico, though her remarks quickly — and predictably — made their way across social media.
If she can sometimes break with her own party, Mace has been sharply critical of progressive Democrats, the members of the so-called Squad in particular.
That enmity was apparent on Wednesday night. Mace she “tried looking” for Rep. Ilhan Omar in the audience “but it looks she lost her seat.”
The joke alluded to Republicans' expulsion of Rep. Omar, a critic of Israel, from the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Mace had been against the move but eventually acceded to pressure from Republican leadership.
“I thought I would get booed one that one,” Mace conceded, at which point Omar cried out from the audience: “I’m right here!”
Subsequent jokes about Omar got little laughter, however.
Some thought Mace crossed the line, more than once. Others voiced their assessment with hearty peaks of laughter.