The White House Correspondents' Dinner will not feature a comedian as host this year for the first time in decades.
The annual White House Correspondents' Dinner has featured comedians for many years. Last year, this became a source of contention as stand-up comic Michelle Wolf took jabs at everyone, and many accused her of getting too personal. That wound may still be fresh, as the White House Correspondents' Association announced on Monday that this year's host will be Ron Chernow, an author known for political biographies.
The WHCA made no mention of the absence of a comedian, though it is a major break from tradition. According to a report by The Washington Post, the dinner has featured a comedy act almost every year since the early 1980s, with the exception of 2003. The sudden change did not go unnoticed, as social media filled with snarky retorts.
Among them was a tweet from Wolf herself. The comedian took fire from both sides last year, and found herself at the center of a bizarre debate. After a year of reflection, she had some harsh words for the White House Correspondents' Association.
"The @whca are cowards," she wrote. "The media is complicit. And I couldn't be prouder."
Wolf's set at the last correspondents' dinner was condemned by prominent voices on both the left and the right. Some accused her of being anti-feminist, as she made jokes about White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders with references to her appearance.
"I have to say, I'm a little starstruck," she said to Sanders. "I love you as Aunt Lydia in The Handmaid's Tale."
Wolf's jokes made mention of Sanders' appearance as a way of commenting on her work as Press Secretary. She made many comments about Sanders lying to reporters, saying, "She burns facts, then uses that ash to create a perfect smoky eye. Maybe she's born with it, maybe it's lies."
Many entertainers came to Wolf's defense, arguing that the jokes were well within the boundaries of political humor. Moreover, many pointed out that the real focus at the time should have been on President Donald Trump, who refused to attend the correspondents' dinner altogether.
In the past, presidents have generally attended the correspondents' dinner and even joined in on the comedy. In 2015, President Barack Obama famously took part in a performance with Keegan-Michael Key, recreating a skit from Key and Peele where Jordan Peele played the president, and Key played his "anger translator," Luther, who said what the president was actually thinking.
The WHCA and the White House have made no comment about whether President Trump will attend this year's correspondents' dinner.