Will the White House Correspondents' Dinner go on? — MSNBC stars back Joy Reid — RedState 'purges' Trump critics

- April 29, 2018

THE WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENTS’ DINNER is having an existential crisis. Journalists quickly distanced themselves from Saturday night’s dinner in response to comedian Michelle Wolf’s biting routine — particularly the jokes directed at press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders. WHCA president Margaret Talev told me Sunday morning that some of Wolf’s remarks “made me uncomfortable and did not embody the spirit of the night.”

But what is the spirit of the night? The WHCA has framed the dinner as an opportunity to celebrate the First Amendment and give out journalism awards and scholarships. Yet the dinner has also become a spectacle, with news organizations jockeying for celebrities and a red carpet entrance. The perception of chumminess between the press and the government has been another long-running concern, prompting the New York Times to sit it out.

The Donald Trump era has only exacerbated existing tensions. His absence at the dinner creates a lopsided program in which a comedian roasts the press and president, who isn’t on hand to give it back to the crowd. Meanwhile, Trump vilifies the press at a rallies by portraying the journalists in tuxes and gowns in Washington as out of touch. On Sunday, the Washington Post’s Margaret Sullivan called for an end to the dinner, writing that the gala has “become close to suicidal for the press’s credibility.”

— In a Sunday email to WHCA members, Talev said she’d “heard from members expressing dismay with the entertainer's monologue and concerns about how it reflects on our mission.” Talev wrote that she and SiriusXM’s Olivier Knox, who takes over as president this summer, "recognize these concerns and are committed to hearing from members on [their] views on the format of the dinner going forward."

— Perhaps the dinner can be reimagined. There are ways to simply tweak the program, like swapping a comedian for a musical act. It can be scaled down to the size of other journalism awards events. Or, as critics argue, it can be scrapped completely. Knox told me at a post-WHCD brunch Sunday that he’ll be gathering input from the organization’s members, but only that morning had begun thinking about next year's event. So for now, it appears the show will go on.

Good morning and welcome to Morning Media. You can reach me at mcalderone@politico.com/@mlcalderone. Daniel Lippman (@dlippman) contributed to the newsletter. Archives. Subscribe.

A DEBATE ABOUT HOW TO BEST CELEBRATE the First Amendment and outstanding journalism is a good one for the WHCA to have. And it’s fair to criticize Wolf’s performance, or reporters’ reactions to it. Many liberals saw Wolf as a truth-teller who brought a spirit they'd like to see more of in the briefing room. But the post-dinner reckoning could also lead to some political posturing.

“My wife [Mercedes] and I walked out early from the wh correspondents dinner. Enough of elites mocking all of us,” tweeted Matt Schlapp, chairman of the American Conservative Union and a former Bush White House official and Koch Industries lobbyist. Mercedes Schlapp, a Trump White House official, said the remarks directed at Sanders are “why America hates the out of touch leftist media elite.” Nevertheless, the Schlapps followed up the dinner by heading to the NBC and MSNBC after-party.

— Other media and politics power players attending that party, held at the Art Museum of the Americas, included Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Sens. Chris Coons and Bob Casey, Rep. Joaquin Castro, Kathy Griffin, Andy Lack, David Cohen, Noah Oppenheim, Phil Griffin, Andrea Mitchell, Peter Alexander, Nicolle Wallace, Stephanie Ruhle, Ali Velshi, Jeff Zucker, Dana Bash, Jim Sciutto, Bob Costa, David Hogg, Michael Avenatti and Tammy Haddad.

— Meanwhile, Playboy chief creative officer Cooper Hefner hosted the magazine’s first WHCD after-party, which included a performance by Miguel and guests such as Don Lemon, Jordan Klepper, Steve Howey, Hasan Piker, Kyle Richards and Mauricio Umansky.

WOLF DIDN'T ONLY JAB THE PRESIDENT AND HIS TEAM, but also offered a serious media critique, via the Washington Post: “You guys are obsessed with Trump. Did you use to date him? Because you pretend like you hate him, but I think you love him. I think what no one in this room wants to admit is that Trump has helped all of you."

— "He couldn’t sell steaks or vodka or water or college or ties or Eric. But he has helped you," she continued. "He’s helped you sell your papers and your books and your TV. You helped create this monster, and now you’re profiting off of him. And if you’re going to profit off of Trump, you should at least give him some money, because he doesn’t have any.”

TRUMP’S TWO CENTS: “The White House Correspondents’ Dinner was a failure last year, but this year was an embarrassment to everyone associated with it,” he tweeted Sunday night. “The filthy 'comedian' totally bombed (couldn’t even deliver her lines-much like the Seth Meyers weak performance). Put Dinner to rest, or start over!"

Context: Trump was ripped at the Meyers-hosted 2011 dinner, an event seen as helping to propel him to run for president.


Vulture’s Jen Chaney: “No, Michelle Wolf Didn’t Joke About Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ Looks”

The Atlantic’s Megan Garber: “The Slow, Awkward Death of the White House Correspondents' Dinner”

NYU’s Jay Rosen: “What savvy journalists say when they are minimizing Trump’s hate movement against journalists”


"Every caricature thrust upon the national press — that we are culturally elitist, professionally incestuous, socioeconomically detached and ideologically biased — is confirmed by this trainwreck of an event. Journalists, the joke’s on us. The WHCD is broken. Fix it or end it." [Tim Alberta]

“Every tweet I see from journalists coming to the defense of Sarah Huckabee Sanders makes more and more adamant that the only way to fix what's broken is by replacing the entire press corps with Michelle Wolf.” [Ashley Feinberg]

“I attended the WHCD last night. Donald Trump has so poisoned the atmosphere by attacking the disabled, Gold Star parents, Muslims, Mexicans, Blacks, women, the press, the rule of law that a comedian who simply tells the truth is offensive? She’s joking. He’s not.” [Rob Reiner]

“Dear ‘the media’ - @michelleisawolf was FUNNY. Hire a juggler next year.” [Jimmy Kimmel]

MSNBC’S JOY REID OPENED SATURDAY’S SHOW by addressing “despicable and truly offensive posts being attributed to me.” The progressive host acknowledged in December having posted homophobic comments on her now-defunct blog around a decade ago, but has claimed that more recently surfaced posts were hacked. She hosted a powerful, nearly 40-minute conversation Saturday with prominent voices on LGBTQ issues and apologized for views she’s held in the past. But Reid stopped short of taking ownership of the posts in question.

— “I genuinely do not believe I wrote those hateful things because they are completely alien to me,” Reid said. “But I can definitely understand, based on things I have tweeted and have written in the past, why some people don't believe me.” There’s no evidence to support the hacking claims, which both The Daily Beast and CNN demonstrated had fallen apart under scrutiny.

— Reid’s network colleagues rallied around her, including Craig Melvin, Ali Velshi and Jonathan Alter. “Brains, guts, heart and soul -- beloved Joy Reid has always been a treasured and brilliant colleague, but I've never been prouder to work with her than I am now,” tweeted Rachel Maddow. And Nicolle Wallace added: “Everyone of us will walk in @JoyAnnReid ‘s shoes some day — filled with remorse and regret over something we have said or done, but I predict that few will do so this eloquently.”

— While MSNBC appears to be supporting Reid — she hasn’t been suspended and still hosted her show the network noticeably has yet to make an official statement of support or weigh in on the veracity of the hacking claim. The unsettled issue isn’t Reid’s views on LGTBQ issues — it’s whether she was up front and honest when approached about posts that were purportedly written by her.

REDSTATE ‘PURGING’ TRUMP CRITICS: Around 10 writers at the conservative site — now owned by Salem’s Townhall Media — were let go Friday, including editor Caleb Howe. “One thing many of them had in common,” writes The Atlantic’s Rosie Gray, “was their vocal criticism of Trump.” Former RedState editor Erick Erickson described the cuts as a “purging” in response to “deviating from the tribe.”

— “I know that price too well,” Erickson wrote. “I do think it was primarily a financial decision, but I also do think it had a lot to do with where one stood on the President. I know a little about the traffic people generated because I was still getting those stats. And it does appear to me that among some comparable people, the more pro-Trump ones stayed.”

TRUMP RETURNING TO ‘FOX & FRIENDS’: Fresh off his rambling, half-hour interview on Thursday, Kellyanne Conway said Friday on “Fox & Friends” that the president plans to appear monthly on the ever-loyal morning show. This would be something of a return for Trump, as New York Times television critic James Poniewozik notes.

— “For non-Fox viewers, Trump had a weekly spot on F&F, ‘Mondays with Trump,’ from 2011 until he ran for president,” he wrote. “People know how The Apprentice raised his profile, but Fox & Friends -- half-politics, half entertainment — helped transition him from entertainer to politician. ‘Mondays with Trump’ started as a morning-after tie-in with ‘The Celebrity Apprentice’ (just as Trump was going birther). He would talk about Obama's Libya policy one minute, and then why he fired supermodel Niki Taylor in last night's boardroom the next minute.”


Lisa Schwartz is joining the Daily Beast as its head of research. She previously worked at the Wall Street Journal, New York Times and ProPublica and has been a member of two Pulitzer Prize-winning teams for national reporting.

Glamour has made several hires under new editor in chief Samantha Barry, WWD reports. Christina Coleman, most recently senior news and culture editor for Essence.com, joins as news and culture director. Celeste Katz, most recently at Newsweek and previously the Daily News, will be the magazine’s new senior political reporter. Mattie Kahn joins from Elle.com as a senior editor.

Li Yuan, most recently China tech columnist at the Wall Street Journal, is joining the New York Times as its inaugural Asia technology columnist based in Hong Kong.

Rita Dove, an English professor at the University of Virginia, will also become the poetry editor of the New York Times Magazine.

OPENING: The Washington Post is looking for a Beijing-based China correspondent.


— BuzzFeed’s Zoe Tillman reports that the DOJ removed press freedom language from internal manual for prosecutors.

— Fox News correspondent John Roberts tells Business Insider he isn’t getting special treatment at the White House even though the president is close to the network’s opinion hosts.

— Mike Elk writes in the Guardian that the media is "finally waking up" to today's labor movement.

— Princeton has had journalism classes for a half-century, but will now offer a journalism certificate program, according to the Daily Princetonian.

— Reading the tabloid tea leaves: The National Enquirer covers Michael Cohen’s “Secrets & Lies”


"Flint still doesn't have clean water" — Michelle Wolf's final line at the WHCD.


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