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White House Correspondents' Dinner Dumps Comedy, Goes for History

The annual gala dates back to 1921, and from 1980 until 2017, presidents from both parties had attended, except for 1981, when president Ronald Reagan was recovering from being shot.

AFP

Updated:November 20, 2018, 7:57 AM IST
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White House Correspondents' Dinner Dumps Comedy, Goes for History
File photo of US President Donald Trump (AP).
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Washington: The White House correspondents' dinner will break with tradition next year and forgo a comedian as its featured speaker, opting instead for a historian best known for his biographies of Alexander Hamilton and two former US presidents.

The decision came after stand-up Michelle Wolf delivered a controversial star turn this year — mercilessly sending up White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders, who was seated on the dais with her.

So on April 27, 2019, the guest speech at the black tie gala will come from historian and biographer Ron Chernow, who is best known for his book about Alexander Hamilton, which inspired Lin-Manuel Miranda's hit musical.

Chernow has also written about presidents George Washington and Ulysses S Grant.

"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.

"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," said Olivier Knox, the president of the White House Correspondents' Association.

Since taking office in January 2017, President Donald Trump has shunned the annual gathering of the Washington press corps, and has repeatedly dubbed the media "the enemy of the American people."

He has dispatched high-ranking administration officials to the event, which also features an awards ceremony for university scholarships.

The annual gala dates back to 1921, and from 1980 until 2017, presidents from both parties had attended, except for 1981, when president Ronald Reagan was recovering from being shot.

Presidents usually give a speech filled with self-deprecating comments and jabs at the press, after a comedian has taken aim at the commander-in-chief.

But Trump's surrogates have not participated in the roast part of the festivities.

The day after Wolf's searing monologue, the then president of the White House Correspondents' Association, Margaret Talev, said the comedian's efforts were "not in the spirit of the mission" of celebrating a free press and "honoring civility."

After Monday's announcement that Chernow would be next year's speaker, Wolf tweeted: "The @whca are cowards. The media is complicit. And I couldn't be prouder."

Trump did attend the event as a guest in 2011, when he was subjected to a blistering roast by then-president Barack Obama, who mocked the reality TV star for peddling the conspiracy theory that the Hawaii-born leader lacked a valid US birth certificate.

The White House has not said if Trump plans to attend the 2019 gala.
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