WASHINGTON â Washingtonâs once-glitzy ânerd promâ is about to get overshadowed.
Late-night TV star Samantha Bee was pulling in celebrities for the first âNot the White House Correspondentsâ Dinnerâ on Saturday â a tongue-in-cheek play on the real bash, where journalists, the president and, in recent years, lots ofÂ bold-faceÂ names have mingled.
But President Donald Trump was skipping the White House Correspondentsâ Association gala,Â insteadÂ marking his 100th day in office with a rally in Pennsylvania. No president had declined an invitation since Ronald Reagan in 1981, and he was recovering from an assassination attempt. Still, Reagan phoned in some friendly, humorous remarks.
WHCA dinner organizers wanted to put the focus on the First Amendment and the role of the press inÂ democracy. The scheduled headliners were Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, set to present journalism awards. Woodward told The Washington Post the two planned to speak about âthe First Amendment and the importance of aggressive but fair reporting.â
Look for the celebrities at Beeâs event: TV stars such as Alysia Reiner ofÂ Orange Is The New Black,Â Retta ofÂ Parks and RecreationÂ and Matt Walsh ofÂ VeepÂ wereÂ expected at her after-party.
The correspondentsâ group, as usual, booked a master of ceremonies: Hasan Minhaj ofÂ The Daily Show.Â Broadcast coverage was to begin at 9:30 p.m. on C-SPAN, followed by Beeâs event airing on TBS at 10 p.m.
Jeff Mason, the WHCA president, said this year would have been different even if Trump had attended, âbased on the tension that has existed in the relationship and some of the things he has said about the press. We were preparing for a different dinner either way.â
Trump has called the media âfakeâ and âdishonestâ and even âthe enemy of the people.â In an emailed fundraising appeal before leaving for Pennsylvania, Trump cited among the accomplishment over his first 100 days, âWe fought back against the mediaâs lies.â
Mason promised that Minhaj would use his comedy chops, without âroasting the president in absentia.â
âPeople donât want to come to a dinner and feel bored or preached at.Â HopefullyÂ neither of those things will happen,â Mason said.
Bee, who hosts TBSâ Full FrontalÂ weekly show, said she planned to focus on celebrating the press.
âWeâre intending our show to really focus on honoring the press for all of the work that we vampire from them, all the hard work that people do that go into making a show like ours possible,â she told The Associated Press this past week.
The dinner began…