The White House Correspondents dinner, aka “the nerd prom,” may be in trouble. The New York Times reports that both Vanity Fair and The New Yorker, two Conde Nast publications, have pulled out of their annual parties. VF editor in chief Graydon Carter, no fan of Donald Trump, says he’s going fishing that weekend.
Then there’s the satirical Not the WHCD being planned by the very funny comedian Samantha Bee and sponsored by her network, which is owned by Turner Communications, part of Time Warner. When Bee announced this last week it sounded hilarious at least on paper. But it also depended on people of note coming to Washington.
The White House Correspondents Association announced on Twitter a couple of days they were going ahead with the dinner. But I’m not sure that’s such a good idea given that no one is laughing, no one wants Trump at the dinner, and the result of a broadcast in which a comedian host just rags on Trump could really backfire on the journalism community. This may not be the time for a roast.
There’s also a question of what the WHCA really is. According to their Form 990 filing for 2015, the not for profit group had $330,000 in expenses in 2015. Nearly half of that money–about $145,000– went to their president, Julia Whitson, in salary. Only $86,550 went to grants to individuals like journalism students. Indeed gifts, grants and other monies received have declined sharply from $293,189 in 2010 to $63,420 in 2014. They claim total net assets of $602,550 for 2015.
A lot of proper journalists have turned their noses at the dinner as inappropriate. Tom Brokaw has been very vocal about it. “I would watch on C-SPAN, and as I watched on C-SPAN, I would try to put myself, kind of, if you will, in the person of an interested citizen in Kansas City, or in Little Rock, or in Spokane, Wash., saying, ‘That’s the Washington press corps?’ I mean, there was more dignity at my daughter’s junior prom than there is [at] what I’m seeing on C-SPAN there,” he told Politico.
Of course, a lot of people point to the 2011 dinner, hosted by Seth Meyers, as the moment Trump decided to run for President. Meyers and President Obama were merciless to Trump, who did not take the ribbing well at all. Maybe this year it would be best to have a smaller, non roast dinner, with fewer celebrities and no mention of the current President.