Samantha Bee will try to upstage President Donald Trump on April 29, announcing this morning she will host a Not the White House Correspondents’ Dinner the same night the White House Correspondents Association is scheduled to host its annual presidential roast/Hollywood petting zoo in Washington.
The news no doubt is being celebrated by Hollywood celebrities who love the spotlight at the annual WHCD but had been losing sleep trying to figure out how to reconcile that with their strong anti-Trump positions. In today’s announcement, Bee made a point of saying her alt-WHCD will welcome with open arms all “non-irritating celebrities,” as well as journalists.
This morning’s announcement virtually guarantees the Actual White House Correspondents’ Dinner, held annually at the Hinckley Hilton in Washington, will be much lower in celebrity stink than it has come to be in recent years. That’s welcome news to some members of the TV news community who thought the Hollywood petting zoo aspect of the annual black-tie event has gotten out of hand.
Meanwhile, Bee also has robbed the correspondents association of its most obvious Plan B for its annual scholarship fundraiser, should Trump decline to attend that gala. WHCD on its website has business as usual information about the upcoming event, but privately there have been talks of contingency plans.
It’s not certain Trump will attend this year’s Actual White House Correspondents’ Dinner, given his oft-stated position that Reporters Who Cover the White House live under flat rocks and lie for sport. Trump might take a pass on this year’s event, still harboring memories of the drubbing then-President Obama gave him from stage at the 2011 dinner, when attendee Trump held the dual offices of Celebrity Apprentice star and Birther Movement leader:
On the other hand, it would be news if Trump passed up an opportunity to take the microphone at a widely televised gathering to call a large gathering of media “scum.” Some members of the media this morning suggested Trump might borrow a page from his election-cycle debate strategy and agree to show up — but only if the money gathered in ticket sales goes to him or some charity of his choosing. That could be tough, given that WHCD is a fundraiser for scholarship money given out to aspiring journalists.
Meanwhile, all proceeds from Bee’s alt-event, which will be held at the substantially smaller and infinitely more charming Willard Hotel in town, will go to the Committee to Protect Journalists (cpj.org).
“We’re really doing this,” Bee said in this morning’s announcement. “This is not a joke.”
Odds are high that if Trump appears at the Actual White House Correspondents’ Dinner he would plow Bee under, ratings-wise. Especially if his performance is along the lines of his why-we-love-live-TV performance at October’s Al Smith dinner, at which the real estate mogul known for his utter lack of comedy chops did a lighthearted roast of Dem nominee Hillary Clinton. Trump started strong at that Catholic charity fundraiser then, as is his pattern, then took the good will he’d earned in the hall, tossed it into a trash can and set it on fire. Boos erupted when Trump said: “We’ve learned so much from WikiLeaks. For example, Hillary believes it is vital to deceive the people by having one public policy and a totally different policy in private.”
As boos grew louder, Trump turned to Clinton to say: “I don’t know who they’re angry at, Hillary, you or I? For example, here she is tonight in public, pretending not to hate Catholics.”
Cardinal Timothy Dolan attempted to do damage control when the dust settled, telling NBC’s Today that, privately, Trump called Clinton a “talented woman” at the dinner and that, whatever the election outcome, “we need to work together.”
“And then there were rainbows and unicorns,” snarked CNN’s John Berman, giving voice to those watching on TV.
MSNBC’s Chuck Todd, meanwhile, was heard to note how hard it is hard to actually lose the Al Smith dinner but that Trump might have accomplished that feat. Our money is on Todd attending Bee’s event on April 29.