White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner: Who Skipped and Who Scaled Back at Events?

Several media brands—and President Trump—were absent from this year’s events, while others used the opportunity to highlight the importance of the press.

By D. Channing Muller May 8, 2017, 12:32 PM EDT

Photo: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

Critics called for it to be canceled. President Trump snubbed it. Yet the White House Correspondents' Association pushed on, hosting its annual dinner at the Washington Hilton in a less-glitzy-than-usual atmosphere on April 29.

Several brands and media outlets that are usually known for splashy parties—including Vanity Fair, HBO, Google, and The New Yorker—opted out this year. Others, though, continued the celebrations, albeit with less fanfare than in recent years.

Political resistance and the freedom of the press were popular themes at certain events. BuzzFeed's Red, White, and Banned Party at the Brixton mocked fake news with a series of false headlines from the past year in pop culture and politics. Guests could get T-shirts printed with “Failing Pile of Garbage"—a phrase the president had used to describe the site; BuzzFeed has since used it on merchandise to raise money for the Committee to Protect Journalists. Comedian Samantha Bee of Full Frontal on TBS hosted the “Not the White House Correspondents’ Dinner” comedy show, which recorded the afternoon of the dinner at DAR Constitution Hall and aired that night on TBS during the same time slot as broadcast of the dinner on C-SPAN.

Atlantic Media, CBS, USA Today, Thomson Reuters, and the Washington Post all returned to the Washington Hilton for pre-dinner receptions. MSNBC hosted its blow-out after-party, moving the event to the Organization of American States building, and CNN returned to Long View Gallery for its Political Hangover brunch the following day.

Returning events made some changes to reflect this year’s subdued vibe. The Annual Garden Brunch downsized from more than 700 people last year to just 350 this year. MSNBC also opted for a smaller event, with 700 guests compared to 1,200 the previous year, in a move that producers said was meant to recalibrate to shift the focus from celebrity to journalism.

Other events that continued this year included Capitol File magazine's and Independent Journal Review's parties at the British Embassy and Carnegie Library, respectively, as well as the New Media Party at WeWork's White House location and BuzzFeed's brunch at Brixton on U Street. 

The dinner itself had a noticeable drop in celebrity attendance—a subject of contention for critics who claim the dinner has lost its focus. The association took this year to refocus the dinner on its scholarship program and the event's original purpose: recognizing the White House correspondents. A new banner on the stage read: “Celebrating the First Amendment.”

The headlining entertainer was The Daily Show's Hasan Minhaj, who delivered a roast of the president as well as took a slight jab at the event itself, saying: “I would say it is an honor to do this, but that would be an alternative fact. It is not. No one wanted to do this so of course it falls in the hands of an immigrant. That's how it always goes down.”

Here's a look inside the events. 

Launch slide show

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