The White House Correspondents' Association is breaking norms this year by selecting a non-comedian to head up its annual White House Correspondents' Dinner, instead tapping American presidential historian and biographer Ron Chernow as the night’s keynote speaker.
The decision comes one year after the WHCA caught flak from the White House, the public and even its own members after selecting comedienne and provocateur Michelle Wolf as the event’s headliner, leading to a cringe-worthy performance criticized by even those in the audience as crude, inappropriate and disgusting.
This year, the WHCA says it will return its focus to “freedom of the press,” an obvious jab at the Trump administration’s near-constant battle with the hostile liberal media.
“The White House Correspondents’ Association has asked me to make the case for the First Amendment and I am happy to oblige,” Chernow said in a WHCA statement. “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.”
The move breaks with tradition as comedians, including actors, late-night hosts and stand-up comics, have long been the most popular pick for the event’s headliner. In fact, this year will mark the first time a non-comedian has headlined the dinner since musician Ray Charles stepped into the main spotlight in 2003.
As for Trump, the president has yet to say whether he'll attend the 2019 dinner, scheduled for April 27. But given his pointed absence in both 2017 and 2018, an appearance by the Commander-in-Chief seems unlikely, at best.