It all started with President Donald Trump's decision not to attend the festivities this February. As you probably know, Trump sent out a tweet announcing that he wouldn't be joining in and then got the rest of his staff to follow in "solidarity." But it turns out his people were just the beginning. Instead of Washington, D.C. being crowded by celebrities coming in for the White House Correspondents' Dinner this weekend, most are taking a pass — just like the president.
That's in part because the fancy after-parties hosted by big media companies that have for taken place for years have decided to take a pass too. RollCall.com's Heard on the Hill listed the many organizations that have not decided to host parties this year. Among them are Bloomberg, Vanity Fair, the New Yorker, Time, and People. In years past, they have hosted fancy shindigs at places like the W Hotel.
The Washington Post interviewed Susan Page, the White House bureau chief for USA Today, who has attended in years past. She pointed out the difference this year based on who would be at her table. "This is clearly going to be different,” Page told the Post. “Last year, I was at a table with Kendall Jenner, and this year I’m at a table with Madeleine Albright.”
Some think that will be a good thing, refocusing the event on more serious issues of the day, like maintaining a strong and independent press when the administration keeps attacking it. The president of the White House Correspondents' Association, Reuters reporter Jeff Mason, has consistently said the focus of the evening will be "celebrating the First Amendment." Now that might not be overshadowed with too many celebrities.
There will be some, though. Among those that are confirmed to be attending related events in town, and may show up at the dinner, are actress and Jon Ossoff campaign volunteer Alyssa Milano, Pretty Little Liars' Chad Lowe, and Matt Walsh of Veep. Elvis Costello and actor-turned-musician Billy Bob Thornton will be performing at two separate-but-related events, as well.
Perhaps the biggest names at the dinner itself will be Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, the famous investigative journalists whose reporting led to Richard Nixon's resignation. They will be presenting an award.
The upside of all this is that more members of the actual association should get to go, Mason explained to the Post. "That’s an issue we’ve had to deal with, where people who cover the White House didn’t always get invited to the dinner,” Mason said. “This year, I haven’t heard of that being a problem."
This may also help the media's reputation with everyday Americans. Instead of seeing journalists schmoozing with the rich and the famous, they'll be on TV asking the hard-hitting questions. And that's probably a good thing.