by WorldTribune Staff, April 28, 2019
The White House Correspondents’ Association dinner was long the social event of the year for Washington insiders and Hollywood celebrities. Top-drawer comedians were the featured entertainment and onlookers lined the lobby of the Washington Hilton to gawk.
Since President Donald Trump took office, however, the celebs have mostly stayed away. And the dinner has “lost its sense of humor,” according to the Washington Post’s Emily Heil.
“The dinner is boring and so negative that we’re going to hold a very positive rally,” Trump told reporters in early April, when he first announced that he had again declined the White House Correspondents’ Association’s invitation. “I like positive things.”
Brad Parscale, Trump’s campaign manager, called the planned rally “epic” on Twitter, noting that it would be broadcast live so “millions can watch @realDonaldTrump instead of the boring WHCD. This dinner is almost worse than Hollywood’s endless self-serving award shows.”
On Twitter, Trump wondered whether “the New York Times will apologize to me a second time,” called Joe Scarborough of MSNBC’s Morning Joe “Morning Psycho” and said CNN has been “a proven and long term ratings disaster.”
“The Radical Left Democrats, together with their leaders in the Fake News Media, have gone totally insane!” Trump said in another tweet. “Sorry to say but @foxandfriends is by far the best of the morning political shows on television.”
After last year’s debacle with D-lister Michelle Wolf, the dinner’s organizers decided to go with historian and biographer Ron Chernow as this year’s keynote speaker.
“The expectations by the political elite about what political humor is have changed,” said Jody Baumgartner, a professor at East Carolina University who teaches a course about political humor. “You’d have to bring in someone who is willing to punch really, really hard or else it would fall flat.”
Steve Clemons, editor at large for The Hill, said media members aren’t in much of a laughing mood these days when it comes to jokes aimed at them. “We can be a bit thin-skinned, I don’t think the media has ever been targeted the way it has. Journalism is on edge in terms of our role and place, and I don’t think we feel as secure as we used to.”
Olivier Knox, president of the White House Correspondents’ Association and chief Washington correspondent for Sirius XM, delivered what some observers called a “dark sermon” to open the dinner on April 28.
“I don’t want to dwell on the president,” Knox said. “This is not his dinner. It’s ours, and it should stay ours. But I do want to say this. In nearly 23 years as a reporter I’ve been physically assaulted by Republicans and Democrats, spat on, shoved, had crap thrown at me. I’ve been told I will never work in Washington again by both major parties.”
“And yet I still separate my career to before February 2017 and what came after,” Knox continued. “And February 2017 is when the president called us the enemy of the people. A few days later my son asked me, ‘Is Donald Trump going to put you in prison?’ ”
Knox also claimed that journalists in the Trump era are under physical threat.
“It shouldn’t need to be said in a room full of people who understand the power of words but fake news and enemies of the people are not punch lines, pet names or presidential. And we should reject politically expedient assaults on the men and women whose hard work makes it possible to hold the powerful to account.”