White House Correspondents' Dinner: Journalist, Star Scuffles Bring Aggressive Edge to Nerd Prom Festivities
The night before a post-dinner fistfight between a HuffPo staffer and a Fox News producer, actor Michael Kelly and his entourage got into a brief shoving match with aggressive autograph seekers.
Maybe it’s Trump.
The normally chummy journalist-politician-celebrity hobnobbing that characterizes the swirl of parties before and after the annual White House Correspondents' Dinner was marred by violence on few occasions over the weekend.
Sure, Donald Trump’s son Eric exchanged cordial greetings Saturday with top Clinton campaign officials. But the Republican presidential frontrunner, who has offered to pay legal fees of supporters who attack protestors and brags about how hard he “hits back” at critics, seemed to send a truculent vibe down the Acela line from New York, where he stayed while Washington partied.
In one incident, actor Michael Kelly, who plays murderous White House Chief of Staff Doug Stamper on Netflix’s House of Cards, got perhaps too deeply into character as he exited the Google, HBO and Smithsonian party at the Renwick Gallery, across the street from the White House, just before midnight on Friday.
Kelly and the man with him got into a small scuffle outside the event due to an aggressive effort by three passing autograph seekers.
One of the three men tried to approach the actor and a small group as they headed toward a waiting SUV. According to the man, who spoke later with The Hollywood Reporter but declined to identify himself, a man with Kelly grabbed him and pushed him away from the actor.
Angered, all three men confronted Kelly’s acquaintance. The actor stepped toward the men, and appeared to receive a shove from one of the angered autograph seekers.
"I don't care if you're famous," the man said. “Don’t touch me.” Kelly and his group got in their car and drove away.
The scrape evoked an incident detailed by comedian Amy Schumer on her Instagram account on Saturday. Schumer described a run-in in South Carolina with a man she said “scared the shit out of me” when he refused her request not to take a picture with her.
"I will not take picture[s] with people anymore and it's because of this dude in Greenville,” Schumer wrote. She later relented: "I'll still take pictures with nice people.”
Kelly’s punch-free scuffle Friday was surpassed Saturday night at a post-WHCD party hosted by MSNBC, where reporters for the ideologically opposed HuffPost and Fox News had an honest-to-goodness fistfight. The scuffle took place in the U.S. Institute of Peace, which hosted the party.
In a city where fights occur via Twitter, or maybe in Senate filibusters, the throwdown was a shock.
It occurred when HuffPost’s Washington bureau chief, Ryan Grim — still irked by an ambush interview Jesse Watters, a producer for Fox News' The O’Reilly Factor, conducted against Grim’s colleague Amanda Terkel in 2009 — approached Watters while filming him with his phone.
Not amused, Watters grabbed the phone and pocketed it. Grim’s effort to retrieve it resulted in the two men wrestling, and throwing punches, witnesses reported.
Sean Spicer, a spokesman for the Republican National Committee, happened to help break up the fracas. Spicer told the Washington Post he was honoring the venue. “Just trying to keep the peace,” he said.
Grim, however, kept jabbing Sunday. "I assume Jesse is retiring from the ambush business since he's shown he doesn't like it," Grim said via email. He said no legal repercussions resulted, as of Sunday afternoon. “I got my phone back,” he added.
Watters meanwhile refused to comment. But a Fox spokeswoman used the attention to work in some promotion. “Jesse will address the issue tomorrow night on The O’Reilly Factor,” she said.
If anything can unite Washington and Hollywood in a warm nonpartisan glow, it is that kind of seamless plug.