The next White House Correspondents’ Dinner may look more like a lecture with presidential biographer slated as keynote speaker and Michelle Wolf isn't happy

  • For the first time in over three decades, a stand-up comedian will not headline the White House Correspondents’ Dinner. Biographer Ron Chernow, who wrote the book on Alexander Hamilton that was turned into the musical “Hamilton,” will be headlining.
  • “The WHCA are cowards,” last year’s comedian headliner Michelle Wolf tweeted, on Monday. “The media is complicit. And I couldn’t be prouder.”
  • “While I have never been mistaken for a stand-up comedian, I promise that my history lesson won’t be dry,” Chernow said in a statement.

For the first time in over three decades, a stand-up comedian will not headline the White House Correspondents’ Dinner. Instead the event, which will take place on April 27, 2019, will feature Ron Chernow, the noted biographer whose books include those about Alexander Hamilton, President George Washington, and President Ulysses S. Grant.

However, comedian Michelle Wolf, who headlined last year’s dinner, is not pleased. “The WHCA are cowards. The media is complicit. And I couldn’t be prouder,” she tweeted on Monday.

The White House, members of the news media, and the correspondents’ association criticised Wolf’s edgy performance – and her roast of White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders this spring.

While some said she had gone too far, others defended her, saying that the biting truth in her jokes were supposed to make people feel uncomfortable.

Other comedians have pushed boundaries during the White House Correspondents’ Dinner: Stephen Colbert lampooned President George Bush, and Larry Wilmore dropped the N-word in 2016.

However in 2019, the WHCA is eschewing comedy as a means to speak truth to power in favour of a historical perspective – and a lesson on the First Amendment.

“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,” Chernow continued. “While I have never been mistaken for a stand-up comedian, I promise that my history lesson won’t be dry.”

The announcement of Chernow as keynote speaker is happening as the Trump administration’s relationship with the press continues to suffer. The White House this week reinstated CNN correspondent Jim Acosta’s press credential after a heated exchange between Acosta and President Donald Trump earlier this month landed in court.

The White House reacted to a judge’s order to give Acosta his press credential back by announcing a set of “rules” meant to govern reporters’ interactions with Trump.

Of course this is hardly the first White House Correspondents’ Dinner to break with tradition in recent years. Trump became the first president in 36 years to not attend. He skipped the dinner in both 2017 and 2018.

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