4 Sexist Moments From Past White House Correspondents' Dinners That Are Unfortunately Relevant Today
Ahh, the White House Correspondents Dinner. "Nerd Prom," as people insist on calling it — despite the fact that past guests include Hollywood A-listers like Bradley Cooper, Kerry Washington, and Brody Jenner — is an opportunity for White House press corps to hobnob with members of the administration they cover. Like most things in Washington, the event has historically been overpriced, full of old white guys, and of course, kind of sexist.
Though it has ballooned over the years into a star-studded, weekend-long series of galas, breakfasts, meetings, and parties, in addition to the main dinner, the first White House Correspondents Association dinner in 1921 only had about 50 guests. The dinner honors journalism with awards and scholarships, and features big-name speakers and entertainment. Since the '80s the featured speaker has usually been a comedian who gently, or not-so-gently, roasts the Washington elite.
While the event has faced criticism in the past for being an example of the overly-chummy relationship between the White House press corps and the administration, that’s not likely to be a problem this year. President Trump, who has called the media “the enemy of the American people”, will be the first president in over 30 years not to attend the annual dinner. The last president not to attend was Ronald Reagan, and that’s only because he had been shot in the chest less than a month earlier. And he still phoned in.
Even though the Misogynist-in-Chief won’t be in attendance, he has attended a number of Correspondents’ dinners before and, true to character, made some wildly inappropriate comments about women. So join us, won’t you, as we look back on some of his, and the dinner’s, most sexist moments.
Women Weren’t Invited Until 1962
Although the Correspondents’ dinner has been happening since 1921, women were not allowed to attend the event until 1962. That year, reporter Helen Thomas, who was the first female member of the White House press corps, pushed for women to be included. At her urging, President Kennedy refused to attend the event unless women were invited. The ban was grudgingly lifted.
There Have Only Been Five Female Hosts
In the dinner’s almost 100-year history, only five women have ever hosted. Comedian Paula Poundstone was the first, in 1992, followed a year later by comedian Elayne Boosler, singer Aretha Franklin in 1999, and ten years later, comedian Wanda Sykes. Most recently, SNL’s Cecily Strong hosted in 2015. This isn’t entirely surprising, considering women weren’t invited to the dinner for the first 40 years, and we’ve had to put up with articles like “Why Women Aren’t Funny” as recently as 2007.
In 1993, then-shady real estate mogul and non-president Donald Trump was invited to the White House Correspondents’ Dinner as a guest of Vanity Fair. He sat next to model Vendela Kirsebom, and promptly began spewing his garbage opinions on women’s bodies.
“He did talk about other women’s breasts and the size,” Kirsebom told the HuffPost. “If you are flat-chested, you are not really worth anything — tons of derogatory talking about women. If a woman would be successful, it would definitely be because she had bigger breasts. Stupid stuff that made no sense to me whatsoever and made me upset."
In 2011, then-shady real estate mogul, reality TV star, birther conspiracist, and still non-president Donald Trump attended the White House Correspondents’ dinner again, where he was faced with a number of jokes at his expense.
“Donald Trump is here tonight!” President Obama said in his speech. "Now, I know that he’s taken some flak lately, but no one is happier, no one is prouder to put this birth certificate matter to rest than the Donald. And that’s because he can finally get back to focusing on the issues that matter — like, did we fake the moon landing? What really happened in Roswell? And where are Biggie and Tupac?”
Host Seth Myers made his jabs more succinct.
“Donald Trump has been saying he will run for president as a Republican — which is surprising, because I just thought he was running as a joke.”
Since then, journalists and pundits have hypothesized that these ribbings were an important factor in Trump’s decision to run for office. In 2015, the New Yorker’s Adam Gopnik, who had been seated near Trump that night, wrote:
“On that night, Trump’s own sense of public humiliation became so overwhelming that he decided, perhaps at first unconsciously, that he would, somehow, get his own back - perhaps even pursue the presidency after all, no matter how nihilistically or absurdly, and redeem himself.”
If this is in fact the case, it is certainly one of the most sexist moments in the history of the White House Correspondents’ dinner, because president Trump represents a very real, very alarming threat to women’s rights in America today.