“It’s a good bet that this year’s White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner will be unlike any other, in some key ways.
For one thing, it will be missing a traditional guest: the President of the United States.
Given the generally contentious relationship he’s had with the press during his political career to date, it probably wasn’t a surprise in February when President Donald Trump tweeted (also not a surprise) that he would not attend the Washington, D.C., event known to some as the “Nerd Prom.” No White House staff members are expected, either. That automatically will guarantee a difference when political journalists gather on Saturday, April 29, with C-SPAN providing the coverage of the arrivals and the dinner that it has offered annually since 1993. (Cable news networks such as CNN and Fox News Channel typically dip in and out of the occasion during the evening.)
The organization’s Web site (http://www.whca.net) is marked by photos of a beaming and laughing President Barack Obama on the dinner’s dais, plus images of former First Lady Michelle Obama warmly greeting winners of the scholarships presented by the group. Those honors – which the proceeds from the dinner help to fund – still will be presented this year, along with awards to professional reporters, though possibly in a more subdued way. Famed Watergate reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein are slated to speak.
“The Daily Show’s” Hasan Minhaj is scheduled to supply the entertainment to be included at the dinner, maintaining the tradition of a comedian who would precede the President, who usually would get into the spirit of the event. Obama went to the extent of having pre-produced, humorous videos made, while George W. Bush brought someone to impersonate and allegedly “translate” him (the late comic actor Steve Bridges) one year.
With fewer celebrity guests also anticipated, expect a different White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner this time. And without the current chief executive on hand, it may be worth counting how many times his name is referenced – and in what ways — by an organization that’s still seeking as much cooperation as possible from the new administration.