It’s the death of the so-called Nerdprom. The annual gathering of the media elite, also known as the White House Correspondents Dinner, was embroiled in controversy after comedian Michelle Wolf’s set targeted Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders. There were also some abortion jokes that weren’t in good taste either, but that’s a separate issue—and one that wasn’t the core of the backlash against the dinner. Members of the media lambasted Wolf—and the WHCA expressed their disappointment last year (via NYT):
The panna cotta had been served and the First Amendment duly celebrated by the time the comedian Michelle Wolf took the stage on Saturday at the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner.
What followed was a roast that took unflinching aim at some of the notables in the room — and quickly opened a divide, largely but not entirely along partisan lines, over the limits of comedy and comity under a president who rarely hesitates to attack the press.
Ms. Wolf described Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, as “an Uncle Tom but for white women who disappoint other white women” and took a shot at her “smokey eye” makeup, saying that it was made from the ashes of “burnt facts.” She called Ivanka Trump “as helpful to women as an empty box of tampons.” She labeled Kellyanne Conway, the president’s counselor, an inveterate liar, and asked: “If a tree falls in the woods, how do we get Kellyanne under that tree?”
“I’m not suggesting she get hurt, just stuck,” Ms. Wolf added, puckishly, as an icy silence — and a few scattered chortles — fell over the black-tie crowd here. Ms. Conway sat expressionlessly. Ms. Sanders, granted a seat of honor on the dais, limited her reaction to an arched eyebrow and pursed lips.
Prominent Washington journalists, meanwhile, took pains to defend Ms. Sanders — earning their own opprobrium from some liberals who asked why reporters were sticking up for an administration that routinely impugns their work.
Andrea Mitchell, the NBC News correspondent, tweeted that an “apology is owed” to the press secretary. Her network colleague Mika Brzezinski wrote that “watching a wife and mother be humiliated on national television for her looks is deplorable.”
Several reporters who cover the White House approached Ms. Sanders in the Hilton ballroom to express sympathy in the immediate aftermath of Ms. Wolf’s monologue. Later, at a windswept after party hosted by NBC News, Ms. Sanders appeared in good spirits as reporters swarmed her. (She even took time to chastise one journalist for asking a question at a news conference that she disliked.)
...Margaret Talev, president of the Correspondents’ Association, issued a statement acknowledging “dismay” from members about Ms. Wolf’s performance.
For a lot of liberals, it was free speech. These are public officials; they can take the heat. All is true, but it also fanned the flames that many on the Right already know: the Left hates us and their allies in the media hate us. At the same time, it was just another massive in-kind contribution to the Trump 2020 campaign. The point is the Left will never be able to win. The more they hate Trump, and the more they express their hatred for him, the GOP, conservatives, and Trump officials, the stronger we become.
It's official, there will be no comedian at the correspondents' dinner in 2019. Instead: Ron Chernow will speak https://t.co/ss8381sATN— Brian Stelter (@brianstelter) November 19, 2018
WHCA prez @OKnox had been leaning against inviting a comedian. He's been conferring with members for months. Today he's confirming the change. It's a recognition that the annual dinner changes dramatically when the president isn't there. Background here: https://t.co/FLbb8m0cZ7— Brian Stelter (@brianstelter) November 19, 2018
Now, to avoid any controversy whatsoever, the WHCD is now eschewing any comedian to do a set. Reportedly, there have been discussions to make the WHCD more “boring” and less celebrity; the event already elicits enough criticism. Instead, they’re hiring a historian…so you better nab those tickets while you can, folks (via WaPo):
Say goodbye to the jokes that have flowed from the dais of the White House correspondents' dinner for decades: The White House Correspondents' Association announced Monday that biographer Ron Chernow will be the featured speaker at the annual black-tie event in the spring.
Having a serious speaker — Chernow is an esteemed historian who has chronicled the lives of George Washington, Alexander Hamilton and Ulysses S. Grant, among others — is a big break from the tradition of having a stand-up comedian entertain the ballroom of journalists, members of Congress and administration types.
“I’m delighted that Ron will share his lively, deeply researched perspectives on American politics and history at the 2019 White House Correspondents’ Dinner,” WHCA President Olivier Knox, who is the chief Washington correspondent for SiriusXM, said in a news release. “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.”
Wolf expressed her disappointment in the decision. So, if you’re in the D.C. bubble and hoping for another bash Trump fest, you’re s**t outta luck.