A comedian will not headline the next White House Correspondents’ Association dinner, after Donald Trump stayed away for two years and Michelle Wolf’s 2018 hilarious lambasting of him prompted a furious backlash from conservatives.
The White House Correspondents Association announced Monday that Pulitzer Prize-winning author and historian Ron Chernow will be the featured speaker at the annual dinner in Washington.
It will be the first time since 2003 that there will be no comedian. Then the speaker was musician Ray Charles, chosen to reflect the somber national mood following the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.
“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,” association president Olivier Knox said in a statement.
Chernow said he was asked to “make the case for the First Amendment” during his remarks.
“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,” he said.
The selection of Chernow marks a change in tradition from selecting a comedian to perform at the black tie event. Wolf drew widespread criticism for her remarks at this year’s dinner about White House press secretary Sarah Sanders’ appearance.
In response, Margaret Talev, then president of the association, said the organization would consider new ideas about the format of the dinner.
“Last night’s program was meant to offer a unifying message about our common commitment to a vigorous and free press,” Talev said. “Unfortunately, the entertainer’s monologue was not in the spirit of that mission.”
Over the last 20 years, comedians were picked for all but two dinners. Before Charles in 2003 the last non-comedian to headline the event was singer Aretha Franklin in 1999.