Controversy has swirled around 2017's White House Correspondents' Dinner (WHCD) for months. Following President Trump's inauguration, there were almost immediate calls from some corners for an all-out boycott of the annual D.C. event. And in a major break from years past, Hollywood is apparently attached to its West Coast on April 29 — as of now, it seems there will be few celebrity guests at this year's WHCD. And that includes the reality T.V. star who now sits in the Oval Office. It seems reasonable, therefore, to assume First Lady Melania Trump might also be absent from the WHCD. Trump himself announced he will be at a rally in Pennsylvania instead of the soiree, and his staff are similarly committed to no-show status.
This year's WHCD is already a departure from what the celebrity-soaked gala looked like during President Obama's two terms in office. It's not an exaggeration to say the 44th POTUS was as beloved by Hollywood as the 45th is despised. Then again, it's a bit rich to hear Trump complain. He himself attended the 2011 WHCD as an invited VIFP (Very Important Famous Person). In fact, Obama ripped on the former reality host in 2011, a moment that looks and feels surreal from the 2017 vantage point.
The WHCD has afforded journalists the rare opportunity to be more relaxed, to take a night off from speaking truth to power, and showcase other facets of their human side. It's been an event marked by a jovial tone, albeit with at least one marked exception. Jabs at the sitting president's expense are par for the course, as is some return fire. For one tuxedoed evening, everyone gets to be good-natured and optimistic.
If that sounds like too much goodwill for most people to muster up right now, well, the world of the rich, famous, and powerful seems to agree. Not only are Trump and his White House staff absent, but so are some media publications and personalities, as well as the usual flood of cheerful celebrities. Event organizers were finally able to book a comedian to host — Hasan Minhaj — and he's certainly a worthy choice. But he probably won't be performing for the same in-house crowd as past emcees, whose audience included A-List celebrities and a far more amenable audience than Minhaj is likely to get with the post-Trump mood of many of the Washington D.C. attendees.