Who Is Boycotting The White House Correspondents' Dinner? Lots Of People, It Seems
Back in 2007, Frank Rich penned a New York Times editorial announcing the publication would no longer attend the White House Correspondents' Dinner (WHCD). The particulars for the WHCD boycott delineated in his op-ed included the press mishandling of the Iraq War, their turpitude in applying the "torture" label to Abu Ghraib, and the underreporting of White House propaganda surrounding the wartime death of football hero Pat Tillman. Playing a star role in this media botch was the corrupted Washington, D.C.-press relationship.
The Fourth Estate's refusal to hold the most powerful accountable was exemplified in events like the WHCD, according to Rich, where the powerful and famous hobnobbed with media stars and fawning journalists. But this year, the Times' absence at the annual televised spectacle won't be the only notable presence missing. Robert Schlesinger in U.S. News and World Report argued that no journalists should show. And while it's unclear how many share his abject disdain for giving even the perception of support to Trump's administration, it is likely that far more media personalities will abstain this year than in WHCDs of the past.
Here are some of the people and publications besides the Times that are already on record to skip part or all of the 2017 WHCD extravaganza.
On the night of the dinner, President Trump is hosting his own competing event — a rally in Pennsylvania. That will probably be a friendlier crowd, though Trump is breaking modern precedent. President Reagan was the last POTUS to miss a WHCD, and that was because he'd just been shot.
2White House staff.
Just like their boss, the White House staff announced they, too, would abstain from the spring gathering of journalists and pols.
3The 'New Yorker' WHCD party.
Unbeknownst to those outside the D.C. bubble (ahem), the WHCD is much more than one plate of food and a night of roasting. It's apparently a whole week of events, and one of the most looked forward to fun times is the New Yorker's kickoff party, traditionally held at the W Hotel. Sadly, it's not to be this year...
4The 'Vanity Fair' party, too.
Vanity Fair's Editor in Chief Graydon Carter made no attempt to conceal the reason for his magazine's party no-go. When asked why, Carter told the New York Times, "Trump and the fish." (Carter will spend the weekend fishing instead.)
5Samantha Bee, but she'll have her own 'Not The White House Correspondents' Dinner' party alternative.
Comedian and late-night talk show host Samantha Bee is throwing her own alternative event: Not The White House Correspondents' Dinner. Airing on TBS on April 29, Bee's guest list includes more celebrities than the real WHCD, including Keegan-Michael Key, Gloria Steinem, Padma Lakshmi, and Veep actor Matt Walsh.
There are corners of the world that won't regret the lack of celebrities at this year's WHCD (Frank Rich probably among them). But over the past decade, the list of A-Listers in D.C. for this event has been steadily climbing. That trend didn't plateau this year; it took a nose dive. As of now, there are no confirmed Hollywood stars on the WHCD roster.
Beginning in 1921, the White House Correspondents' Dinner grew from a small gathering of male reporters to a yearly celeb-filled fete in honor of journalists — and a celebration of freedom of the press. That issue will receive even more focus than usual in 2017, according to White House Correspondents Association head Jeff Mason. "From our perspective, the main event is our dinner, and our dinner... particularly this year, will be focused on the First Amendment and the importance of a free press," he said. That may have something to do with President Trump's blatant attacks on the "fake news" media, and even outright threats to freedom of the press itself.
If it took Trump to refocus the event on the meaningful work of journalists, rather than boozing it up a la Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous, then maybe the 2017 WHCD will be a success after all.