Comedian Michelle Wolf made waves when she took the current administration to task at the 2018 White House Correspondents’ Dinner. Many of Wolf’s critics called her jokes “too mean,” with some claiming she crossed the line (a huge number of comedians, however, quickly came to her defense). For its part, the White House Correspondents’ Association (WHCA) backtracked their support of Wolf after the controversy broke, claiming her comments were “not in the spirit” of their mission in an official statement.
And it now seems the WHCA is attempting to avoid controversy altogether in 2019, stating in a November 19th press release that Ron Chernow, known for his biographies of presidents and politicians, will be hosting the next correspondents’ dinner. In a statement, WHCA president Olivier Knox said that he was “delighted that Ron will share his lively, deeply researched perspectives on American politics and history” at the event.
But Wolf had a different opinion on next year’s host. The comedian called out both the WHCA and the media in a savage tweet, while gladly accepting responsibility for the change up.
The correspondents’ dinner has long been hosted by a comedian—and the acts are often pointed and (hilariously) harsh. In 2006, host Stephen Colbert delivered a famously blistering roast of then-president George W. Bush. But as CNN points out, unlike most Commanders-in-Chief, President Donald Trump has opted not to attend the event for the past two years, and Knox told the news organization that without the president, the roast feels more combative.
In the WHCA’s press release, Chernow stated that the association had asked him to “make the case for the First Amendment.”
But others, like Wolf, saw the WHCA’s decision in a distinctly negative light.
The WHCA’s role is to advocate for free speech, and jokes aimed at those in power is a part of that. Let’s hope the WHCA finds its way back to its roots in 2020.