STREAMING NOW: Watch Now

Instead of a comedian, White House Correspondents' Association enlists author Ron Chernow as speaker

The White House Correspondents' Association is shelving its tradition of having a comedian roast the preside...

Posted: Nov 20, 2018 12:54 PM
Updated: Nov 20, 2018 12:54 PM

The White House Correspondents' Association is shelving its tradition of having a comedian roast the president and the press corps at its annual fundraising dinner. Instead, famed author Ron Chernow will be the featured speaker.

The association's president Olivier Knox made the announcement on Monday. For several months, he had been leaning against inviting a comic, and he had been conferring with other members about the change.

Arts and entertainment

Business and industry sectors

Business, economy and trade

Celebrities

Comedians and comedy

Donald Trump

Freedom of press

Government and public administration

Government bodies and offices

Human rights

International relations and national security

Journalism and news media

Media industry

Michelle Wolf

Misc people

Olivier Knox

Political Figures - US

Politics

US federal government

White House

The dinner is a key date on Washington's social calendar. But its meaning has changed amid constant attacks on the media and increasing political polarization. Booking Chernow instead of a stand-up performer is a recognition that the annual dinner changes dramatically when the president isn't there.

President Trump has snubbed the event two years in a row, and there is little reason to believe that he will attend next dinner, which is scheduled for April 27, 2019.

So the association had to rethink things.

Historically, Knox told CNN earlier this year, "when the president comes, the program's center of gravity naturally tilts toward the president." After he speaks and ribs the press corps, the featured comedian serves as the counter-balance. But with the president absent, the dinner has a different, more combative feel.

Knox and the association's board members are trying to change that.

"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," Knox said in a statement on Monday.

Chernow is the author of six books, including best selling titles about Alexander Hamilton and George Washington. The Hamilton biography inspired Lin-Manuel Miranda's Broadway hit musical "Hamilton," and Chernow served as a historical consultant on the production.

Chernow said in a statement, "The White House Correspondents' Association has asked me to make the case for the First Amendment and I am happy to oblige. 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."

Comedienne Michelle Wolf spurred debate about the dinner format when she performed at last April's dinner.

Some attendees loved her set, while others cringed at some parts of it.

Afterward, Trump allies claimed that the jokes proved the press corps' hatred of Trump. Trump tweeted that the dinner was "embarrassing" and the event is "dead."

But many writers, activists and comedians defended Wolf for roasting both the administration and the media.

Wolf seemed happy about the outcome. When former press secretary Sean Spicer tweeted that the dinner "was a disgrace," Wolf replied, "Thank you!"

The correspondents' association -- which did not vet her monologue ahead of time -- expressed regret that the controversy over the jokes overshadowed the dinner's First Amendment message.

Members of the association serve one-year terms as president. The president back then, Margaret Talev, said she invited Wolf because "she was a talented comedian with a message to deliver." But Talev also said Wolf's stand-up act did not reflect the "spirit" of the association's mission.

Knox took over as president of the association in July. His day job is chief Washington correspondent for SiriusXM. He leads the group's advocacy for press access and other White House issues. In the past week, the association has supported CNN in litigation with the White House over Jim Acosta's press pass.

After Knox's term as president, Jon Karl of ABC News will take over next July.

Then it will be Karl's turn to decide whether to invite a comedian, an author, or someone else for the 2020 dinner.

But the decision about 2019 has already stirred lots of debate, with some journalists praising the pick and others saying it was a capitulation to Trump.

Wolf left no doubt about her point of view.

She tweeted, "The @whca are cowards. The media is complicit. And I couldn't be prouder."

Huntsville
Overcast
50° wxIcon
Hi: 54° Lo: 39°
Feels Like: 50°
Florence
Overcast
50° wxIcon
Hi: 59° Lo: 40°
Feels Like: 50°
Fayetteville
Overcast
48° wxIcon
Hi: 55° Lo: 37°
Feels Like: 45°
Decatur
Overcast
51° wxIcon
Hi: 56° Lo: 38°
Feels Like: 51°
Scottsboro
Overcast
54° wxIcon
Hi: 57° Lo: 41°
Feels Like: 54°
WAAY Radar
WAAY WAAY-TV Cam
WAAY Temperatures

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 161537

Reported Deaths: 2718
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson23940385
Mobile17123319
Tuscaloosa10602141
Montgomery10503199
Madison955798
Shelby760565
Baldwin676869
Lee664965
Calhoun476562
Marshall447451
Etowah441952
Morgan430835
Houston423934
DeKalb355429
Elmore327858
St. Clair311342
Limestone297031
Walker287493
Talladega276437
Cullman266525
Lauderdale240543
Jackson225317
Autauga212631
Colbert210232
Franklin209432
Blount200925
Russell19833
Chilton192332
Dallas189227
Dale184952
Coffee183611
Covington177329
Escambia175831
Clarke138717
Chambers138047
Tallapoosa137287
Pike136414
Marion110931
Barbour10559
Marengo104622
Butler101941
Winston94713
Geneva9427
Pickens89018
Lawrence88533
Bibb86115
Randolph84616
Hale78130
Cherokee76414
Clay76312
Washington75812
Henry7316
Lowndes72128
Monroe66310
Bullock65117
Crenshaw61230
Fayette59913
Perry5996
Cleburne5799
Conecuh57213
Wilcox57112
Macon54320
Lamar5235
Sumter48621
Choctaw39512
Greene34516
Coosa2173
Out of AL00
Unassigned00

Tennessee Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 256880

Reported Deaths: 3263
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Shelby37335570
Davidson32679345
Knox1319395
Rutherford12406115
Hamilton12175112
Williamson738756
Sumner6371113
Wilson492063
Putnam461059
Montgomery438960
Out of TN427836
Sullivan398150
Madison391880
Washington376753
Bradley370323
Blount351536
Sevier349722
Maury345839
Robertson268143
Hamblen254750
Tipton246623
Dyer233638
Unassigned22306
Gibson222749
Coffee198726
Hardeman193133
Greene187654
Obion185523
Anderson181314
Bedford178920
Trousdale17899
Dickson176319
Fayette175925
McMinn171238
Lawrence170720
Loudon169012
Cumberland166927
Carter166636
Wayne16197
Weakley161026
Jefferson160424
Monroe152129
Warren150711
Lauderdale149517
Henderson144126
Hardin143522
Roane14208
Macon138125
Franklin133623
Haywood132028
Hawkins127228
Overton126120
White125214
Johnson11927
Marshall119011
Carroll116926
Cocke115014
McNairy115029
Rhea114119
Campbell110413
Cheatham109712
Bledsoe10344
Smith103214
Giles100738
Lake9904
Lincoln9453
Fentress94411
Crockett90722
Henry83712
Hickman82915
Marion81210
DeKalb78617
Chester74115
Decatur67911
Grainger6364
Grundy58712
Union5554
Claiborne5437
Polk54013
Unicoi4775
Jackson4716
Humphreys4654
Morgan4587
Lewis4425
Benton43410
Cannon4322
Houston43117
Clay41815
Scott4085
Sequatchie3632
Stewart34811
Perry3435
Meigs3376
Pickett2879
Moore2832
Van Buren2122
Hancock1253

Community Events