UPDATE, with Michelle Wolf comment Next year’s White House Correspondents’ Dinner will be no laughing matter. The organization has decided to forgo a comedian as emcee – historian Ron Chernow will be the featured speaker next April.
Last year’s host, comedian Michelle Wolf, called the White House Corespondents’ Association “cowards.”
“The @whca are cowards,” tweeted Wolf, who drew criticism at last spring’s dinner for making jokes about White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders. “The media is complicit. And I couldn’t be prouder.”
In a statement released today, the WHCA announces Chernow as the featured speaker for the annual dinner on Saturday, April 27, 2019. The statement does not address the absence of a comedian as emcee.
“I’m delighted that Ron will share his lively, deeply researched perspectives on American politics and history at the 2019 White House Correspondents’ Dinner,” said Olivier Knox, Chief Washington Correspondent for SiriusXM and president of the WHCA. “As we celebrate the importance of a free and independent news media to the health of the republic, I look forward to hearing Ron place this unusual moment in the context of American history.”
“The White House Correspondents’ Association has asked me to make the case for the First Amendment and I am happy to oblige,” Chernow said. “Freedom of the press is always a timely subject and this seems like the perfect moment to go back to basics. My major worry these days is that we Americans will forget who we are as a people and historians should serve as our chief custodians in preserving that rich storehouse of memory. While I have never been mistaken for a stand-up comedian, I promise that my history lesson won’t be dry.”
The Pulitzer Prize-winning Chernow has written acclaimed biographies of J.P. Morgan, John D. Rockefeller, George Washington, Alexander Hamilton and Ulysses S. Grant. He’s not exactly a stranger to show business: His 2004 Hamilton bio became the basis for Lin-Manuel Miranda’s smash Broadway musical Hamilton, and 2017’s Grant reportedly is getting a movie adaptation – directed by Steven Spielberg and produced by Leonardo DiCaprio.
The decision comes as President Donald Trump has refused to attend the event for the second time. Trump’s absence leaves what has evolved into a roast-like event without any meat.
Known as the D.C. Nerd Prom, the dinner has often been controversial, even in the pre-Trump era, as when Stephen Colbert hosted and roasted George W. Bush in 2006. In 2011, when Seth Meyers hosted, President Barack Obama blasted the in-attendance Trump so harshly that speculation later arose attributing Trump’s anger at fueling his presidential ambitions. In 2017, host Larry Wilmore was criticized after he affectionately called the outgoing Obama “my nigga” on live TV.
Trump refused to submit to the comic roasting altogether, no-showing in 2017 and 2018. Last year, after conservatives took offense over Wolf’s joking about White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders, Trump tweeted, “The White House Correspondents Dinner is DEAD as we know it. This was a total disaster and an embarrassment to our great Country and all that is stands for. FAKE NEWS is alive and well and beautifully represented on Saturday night!”
In recent years, TBS’s Samantha Bee has hosted a Full Frontal episode opposite the dinner, called Not The White House Correspondents Dinner.