The White House Correspondents Association is known for an annual dinner in which the president of the United States and other prominent political figures are given license to poke fun at themselves and their political opponents.
But on the heels of a widely criticized performance by comedian Michelle Wolf, the WHCA announced Monday it will take a serious turn at its next dinner, April 27, and feature an eminent biographer of presidents and statesmen as its headline speaker.
Ron Chernow, a Pulitzer Prize-winning author, will speak on the importance of the First Amendment at the 2019 event, the WHCA said in a statement.
Wolf — who was condemned for mocking White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders’ appearance — reacted to the WHCA’s decision not to feature a comedian.
“The [White House Correspondents’ Association] are cowards,” Wolf tweeted Monday. “The media is complicit. And I couldn’t be prouder.”
Margaret Talev, who was WHCA president at the time of Wolf’s performance, said the program “was meant to offer a unifying message about our common commitment to a vigorous and free press.”
“Unfortunately, the entertainer’s monologue was not in the spirit of that mission,” she said, referring to Wolf.
The current WHCA president, Olivier Knox, chief Washington correspondent for SiriusXM, said he’s “delighted that Ron will share his lively, deeply researched perspectives on American politics and history at the 2019 White House Correspondents’ Dinner.”
Chernow said freedom of the press “is always a timely subject and this seems like the perfect moment to go back to basics.”
“My major worry these days is that we Americans will forget who we are as a people and historians should serve as our chief custodians in preserving that rich storehouse of memory,” Chernow said.
“While I have never been mistaken for a stand-up comedian, I promise that my history lesson won’t be dry.”
After her April 28, 2018, performance, Wolf was called out by several politicians and journalists for her remarks about Sanders.
One White House correspondent wrote,: “Apology is owed to @PressSec and others grossly insulted ny Michelle Wolf at White House Correspondents Assoc dinner.”
Maggie Haberman of the New York Times said: “That @PressSec sat and absorbed intense criticism of her physical appearance, her job performance, and so forth, instead of walking out, on national television, was impressive.”
Wolf said of Sanders:
And of course, we have Sarah Huckabee Sanders. We are graced with Sarah’s presence tonight. I have to say I’m a little star-struck. I love you as Aunt Lydia in ‘The Handmaid’s Tale.’ Mike Pence, if you haven’t seen it, you would love it.
Every time Sarah steps up to the podium I get excited, because I’m not really sure what we’re going to get. You know, a press briefing, a bunch of lies or divided into softball teams. ‘It’s shirts and skins, and this time don’t be such a little b—-, Jim Acosta!’
I actually really like Sarah. I think she’s very resourceful. Like she burns facts, and then she uses that ash to create a perfect smoky eye. Like maybe she’s born with it, maybe it’s lies. It’s probably lies.
And I’m never really sure what to call Sarah Huckabee Sanders, you know? Is it Sarah Sanders, is it Sarah Huckabee Sanders, is it Cousin Huckabee, is it Auntie Huckabee Sanders? Like, what’s Uncle Tom but for white women who disappoint other white women? Oh, I know. Ann Coulter.
In response to the backlash, Wolf tweeted: “Why are you guys making this about Sarah’s looks? I said she burns facts and uses the ash to create a *perfect* smoky eye. I complimented her eye makeup and her ingenuity of materials.”