President Trump has killed the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner — and he did it from over 500 miles away.
On Saturday night, Mr. Trump skipped the WHCA dinner, held in a swanky Washington hotel ballroom, and instead went to another Washington — Washington Township, Michigan. There, he gave a campaign-style speech full of fire and bashed the media with abandon to the cheers of his supporters.
“You may have heard I was invited to another event tonight,” the president told the raucous crowd. “But I’d much rather be in Washington, Michigan, than Washington, D.C.” he said to thunderous applause.
“Is this better than that phony Washington White House Correspondents’ dinner? Is this more fun?” he said. “I could be up there tonight smiling, like, I love when they’re hitting you, shot after shot. These people, they hate your guts and you know, you gotta smile. And if you don’t smile they’ll say, ‘He was terrible. He couldn’t take it.’ And if you do smile, they’ll say, ‘What was he smiling about?!’ You know, there’s no win.”
And he’s right. The big “nerd prom” — when 3,000 “journalists” and the movers and shakers inside the Beltway gather to praise themselves — has always been a no-win situation for Mr. Trump. That’s why he’s skipped the event two years in a row, and may never attend one during his time in office.
The WHCA dinner used to be a nice affair, everyone decked out in tuxedoes and ballgowns, the evening’s theme always centering on freedom of the press and the First Amendment. Sure, the evening took on the tone of a roast, but a PG-13 one, not the kind you see nowadays on Comedy Central, where the show is just one long bleep.
The dinner also used to attract real talent (and I should know, I went to 20 of them): Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles, Jay Leno, and back in the old days, Bob Hope, Richard Pryor, Nat King Cole, even Frank Sinatra. But things have gone downhill fast, especially during the George W. Bush years, when the “comedy” act became a full-on hatefest.
The quality of the talent plunged, too: the last three years in a row, the featured entertainment has been a mostly unknown “comedian” from Comedy Central.
Which leads us to Saturday night. Someone named Michelle Wolf, a “contributor” to “The Daily Show” (whatever that means) put down a 20-minute hate-filled screed, telling abortion jokes, bashing the appearance of the White House press secretary, and calling the president of the United States a “p–y.”
In a surprise, even the liberal media that throngs the dinner was taken aback. Many took to Twitter the next day to denounce the over-the-top performance, and by the end of Sunday, the WHCA president had done so, too.
“Last night’s program was meant to offer a unifying message about our common commitment to a vigorous and free press while honoring civility, great reporting and scholarship winners, not to divide people,” Margaret Talev of Bloomberg News said in a statement. “Unfortunately, the entertainer’s monologue was not in the spirit of that mission.”
Of course, Ms. Talev knew full well what Ms. Wolf was going to do — she hired her, after all. A simple internet search turns up scores of Trump-hating “comedy” from Ms. Wolf, so it’s not like it all came as a surprise.
On Monday, Mr. Trump weighed in again.
“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 it stands for. FAKE NEWS is alive and well and beautifully represented on Saturday night!” he tweeted.
And, boy, was he right. By Tuesday, CNN had posted a story headlined “White House correspondents think about changing dinner for Trump era.” In the piece by another Trump-hater, Brian Stelter writes that “lots of ideas are bouncing around, both among correspondents and outsiders.”
Among the ideas:
• “Invite pair of comedians, one with a liberal bent and one with a conservative bent.
• “Book a singer as the featured entertainer instead of a comedian.
• “Put the dinner on pause, or end it altogether.”
Wonder if he’s getting tired yet of so much winning!
• Joseph Curl covered the White House and politics for a decade for The Washington Times. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @josephcurl.
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