Is the Drama Around the White House Correspondents' Dinner Worth It?

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November 20, 2018
Updated 25d ago

By Tracey Cheek

In a sharp contrast to years past, the White House Correspondents' Dinner will not feature a class clown, but a professor ー First Amendment historian Ron Chernow.

The sober-minded selection comes after comedian Michelle Wolf's take-no-prisoners routine at the last event in April ー her jabs at Sarah Huckabee Sanders, in particular, incited outrage from the White House and some of the reporters in attendance.

[Chernow is] not going to be controversial, he’ll be a very ‘eat your vegetables’ performer," said Jon Levine, media editor at The Wrap

Chernow ー a significant deviation from the likes of Stephen Colbert and Wanda Sykes ー is best known for his thick volumes on American presidents. Perhaps most notably, his book on Alexander Hamilton inspired the hit Broadway musical and cultural phenomenon, “Hamilton.”

But does it really matter who gets up and tells jokesー or in this year's case, gives a history lesson ー to a group of journalists? Levine said that the White House Correspondents' Dinner has been criticized as an access journalism event, and for all the rumblings, it's not particularly important.

“The event has gotten criticism since as long as I can remember," he said." From a lot of journalists who say it’s weird to sort of be writing all this very tough coverage about Trump or Sarah Sanders or whatever, and then you go there and have drinks with everybody and pal around. It's a little strange.”

President Trump has not shown up to a White House Correspondents dinner since taking office, in contrast to his predecessors, and Levine is positive that this year will be no exception.

“There is not a question, he will not show up,” he said.

“It’s clearly just not his thing. He knows that he goes after the press every single day. It would be a hostile audience. It would be at best awkward.”