Trump should tell the White House press corps to pound sand — again

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary - BY JOSEPH CURL

Let’s say that Brad Pitt was go­ing to be pre­sented an honorary Academy Award for life­time achieve­ment (hey, it could hap­pen). Now let’s say that the academy’s board of direc­tors de­cided to pick two peo­ple to be­stow the award — An­gelina Jolie and Jen­nifer Anis­ton (his es­tranged wife and ex-wife). If you were Brad Pitt, you’d no doubt think: “Boy, these guys are re­ally out to get me. Think I’ll give that a pass.”

That’s pre­cisely the sit­u­a­tion Pres­i­dent Trump is in with re­gard to the an­nual press­fest, the White House Cor­re­spon­dents’ As­so­ci­a­tion (WHCA) din­ner. Ev­ery April, the me­dia throws a party for … it­self. The whole af­fair has be­come pretty dis­gust­ing: The big “news” or­ga­ni­za­tions in­vite as many celebri­ties as they can, then 2,000 sweaty peo­ple pack into the Wash­ing­ton Hil­ton for a drab night of bor­ing awards and some luke­warm salmon (plus a lot of al­co­hol, but not enough to make the night tol­er­a­ble).

The evening is, how­ever, punc­tu­ated with one big ex­cla­ma­tion point: The pres­i­dent of the United States shows up and, nearly at the end of the te­dious love­fest, roasts the me­dia in a good­hearted way. Usu­ally. But last year, Mr. Trump de­cided not to at­tend, the first since Pres­i­dent Rea­gan to do so, likely for these two rea­sons: The me­dia has been heav­ily skewed against him since the day he en­tered the 2016 pres­i­den­tial race, and the pro­fes­sional en­ter­tainer who was set to fol­low the pres­i­dent on stage was a pro­fes­sional Trump hater.

In 2017, the WHCA de­cided to pick co­me­dian and “The Daily Show” cor­re­spon­dent Hasan Min­haj. He was pre­dictably un­funny. He joked about Rus­sia: “The leader of our coun­try is not here. That’s be­cause he lives in Mos­cow; it’s a very long flight.” He joked about Mr. Trump play­ing golf: “The longer you keep him dis­tracted, the longer we’re not at war with North Korea.” He joked about Mr. Trump not at­tend­ing the din­ner: “He’s done far too much bomb­ing this month.”

Oh, and he called Mr. Trump the “liar in chief.” Hi­lar­i­ous!

This year will be more of the same. The WHCA an­nounced last week that Michelle Wolf, a con­trib­u­tor to “The Daily Show With Trevor Noah” who has a new show on Net­flix, will be the en­ter­tain­ment for the evening. Miss Wolf is an­other bona fide Trump hater. “I think Trump might be our dumb­est pres­i­dent ever,” she tweeted in Oc­to­ber. “And that’s in­clud­ing all the ones that thought leeches were medicine.” On Trump’s daugh­ter Ivanka, a White House ad­viser, Miss Wolf tweeted last April that she “helps women about as much as an empty box of tam­pons.” (So edgy!)

To be fair, the din­ner was once a dig­ni­fied af­fair. The top me­dia in­vited pow­er­ful play­ers as their guests, and the night truly was a cel­e­bra­tion of the First Amend­ment. But then news agen­cies be­gan to try to one-up one an­other by invit­ing mega-Hol­ly­wood stars, and the evening grew into a week­long bac­cha­na­lia of ex­cess, with lav­ish A-list par­ties thrown by Van­ity Fair and cor­po­rate spon­sor­ship by huge com­pa­nies, in­clud­ing Ab­so­lut Vodka. E! and even C-SPAN now cover ar­rivals at a “red car­pet” for the evening — a true sign that it’s all gone south.

By the way, the din­ner once at­tracted top­notch en­ter­tain­ers. Bob Hope ap­peared at the 1944 din­ner, Frank Si­na­tra the fol­low­ing year. In 1956, James Cag­ney em­ceed, and Nat King Cole, Patti Page and Dizzy Gille­spie per­formed. Other per­form­ers in­clude Bar­bra Streisand, Ray Charles and Aretha Franklin. But the WHCA skews to­ward co­me­di­ans, so there’s been some big names there, too, like Danny Thomas, Mil­ton Berle, Pe­ter Sell­ers, The Smoth­ers Brothers, Richard Pryor, Jay Leno and Co­nan O’Brien.

But by 2001, when Ge­orge W. Bush took of­fice, the en­ter­tain­ment fell off a cliff. B-list co­me­di­ans like Dar­rell Ham­mond, Cedric the En­ter­tainer, Stephen Col­bert, Wanda Sykes, Seth Meyers, Jimmy Kim­mel and Jon Ste­wart were picked. The past few years have been pa­thetic: Joel McHale, Ce­cily Strong, Larry Wil­more, then Mr. Min­haj.

Dur­ing the Bush years, the at­tacks got uglier and uglier. Of course, none of the co­me­di­ans laid a glove on Cho­sen One Barack Obama, but the vi­cious at­tacks on Repub­li­cans and con­ser­va­tives flour­ished dur­ing his terms, too. And the lap­dog me­dia, heav­ily lib­eral — mak­ing up 80 per­cent of the paid au­di­ence — whooped and cheered ev­ery pu­trid joke.

Some got sick of it. In 2013, old-school news­man Tom Brokaw had had enough and an­nounced he wouldn’t at­tend, won­der­ing why on earth “news” or­ga­ni­za­tions were invit­ing the likes of Lind­say Lo­han. “She be­came a big star at the White House Cor­re­spon­dents’ Din­ner. Give me a break,” Mr. Brokaw said. But Mr. Brokaw also ob­jected to the ex­cess. “It’s who can bring in the most tele­genic and ou­tra­geous celebrity. What we’re do­ing is say­ing … we’re Ver­sailles,” he said. “We’ll let the rest of you eat cake.”

The night will only raise the stature of the Trump haters — and that’s why Trump should just RSVP that he’ll be busy that night. Pound sand. Joseph Curl has cov­ered pol­i­tics for 25 years, in­clud­ing 12 years as White House cor­re­spon­dent at The Wash­ing­ton Times. He can be reached at josephcurl@gmail.com and on Twit­ter @ josephcurl.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Pres­i­dent Trump would only raise the stature of his haters if he at­tended the White House Cor­re­spon­dents’ Din­ner, where he would be the butt of jokes.

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