A 2018 New York Times headline appears to be a prophecy for Washington’s 2019 nerd prom: “Did Michelle Wolf Kill the White House Correspondents’ Dinner?”
In short, yeah, and it’s only getting nerdier than ever.
The 2019 speaker will be historian and author Ron Chernow.
Sure, he’s impressive. He wrote a 2004 biography on Alexander Hamilton that became the basis of a hit Broadway musical. He also won a Pulitzer. But his appearance will likely kill the mood — Zzzzzzzz — from what Washington’s geekiest event has been when it puts power and media in ball gowns and tuxes in the same room for one evening a year.
It’s supposed to be a roast. Of power. Of the media. Of specifically journalists like CNN’s Jake Tapper.
And now — what? — it’ll be a history lesson?
“I’m delighted that Ron will share his lively, deeply researched perspectives on American politics and history at the 2019 White House Correspondents’ Dinner,” Olivier Knox, Chief Washington Correspondent for SiriusXM and president of the WHCA, said in a statement. “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.”
SiriusXM’s Julie Mason, host of Press Pass, thinks the choice of Chernow is a relief.
“Ron Chernow is an inspired idea,” she told The Mirror. Where is it written we must have a comedian? After last year’s flapdoodle with Michelle Wolf, this feels like a relief and smart redirection back to the guiding principles of the WHCA. Is it less sexy? Everything is less sexy right now.”
But a longtime journalist anticipates possible boredom.
“Changes had to be made to the dinner because last year’s event was offensive,” an anonymous Washington journalist confided to The Mirror. “But you also don’t want to be boring. Chernow is promising that his ‘history won’t be dry.’ As President Trump says, we shall see what happens.”
Some argue that the dinner began going downhill when comedian Stephen Colbert hosted the dinner in 2006 and pissed off a lot of people. The Washington Post called it the “most controversial speech ever.” Vanity Fair called it “the most searing of all performances.” Among other insults, he said then-President George W. Bush reacted to tragedies “with the most powerfully staged photo ops in the world.”
In 2018, many thought comedian Michelle Wolf bombed. She definitely made Washington’s glitterati super uncomfortable. Partygoers wore dour looks on their faces as Wolf mocked White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, calling her a liar, making fun of her smoky eyeshadow and comparing her looks to that of Aunt Lydia in The Handmaid’s Tale.
Wolf cracked on Tapper saying, “I never wanted to know what any of you look like when you orgasm — except for you, Jake Tapper,” she said.
She said first daughter Ivanka Trump was about as helpful to women as an empty box of tampons.
At the time, then-WHCA Prez Margaret Talev wrote, “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. Unfortunately, the entertainer’s monologue was not in the spirit of that mission.”
Oh…boo hoo. So now we have to be inspired instead of amused?
Who wants that?
Chernow promises his gig won’t be dry.
“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 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.”
Hmmm. We’ll be the judges of that.
Maybe pillows should be handed out at the door.