White House Correspondents' Dinner Ditches Comedian for 2019 Event

Breaking with years of tradition, biographer Ron Chernow will be the featured speaker at the WHCA's annual dinner.

The White House Correspondents' Association (WHCA) has announced that historian and author Ron Chernow will be the featured speaker at the 2019 dinner. The move breaks from years of tradition by not having a comedian keynote the annual gathering of reporters and White House officials.

"I'm delighted that Ron will share his lively, deeply researched perspectives on American politics and history at the 2019 White House Correspondents' Dinner," said WHCA president Olivier Knox in a statement on Monday. "As we celebrate the importance of a free and independent news media to the health of the republic, I look forward to hearing Ron place this unusual moment in the context of American history."

Chernow is known for his acclaimed biographies of George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, J.P Morgan and John D. Rockefeller. He served as a historical consultant on Lin-Manuel Miranda's Hamilton. His latest book, Grant, was published in 2017 and spent four months on the bestseller list, and Steven Spielberg and Leonardo DiCaprio are in discussions to adapt the biography for a Ulysses S. Grant biopic.

"The White House Correspondents' Association has asked me to make the case for the First Amendment and I am happy to oblige," Chernow said on Monday of hosting the event, which takes place April 27, 2019. "Freedom of the press is always a timely subject and this seems like the perfect moment to go back to basics. My major worry these days is that we Americans will forget who we are as a people, and historians should serve as our chief custodians in preserving that rich storehouse of memory. While I have never been mistaken for a stand-up comedian, I promise that my history lesson won't be dry."

Previous dinners have been hosted most recently by Michelle Wolf (2018), Hasan Minaj (2017), Larry Wilmore (2016), Cecily Strong (2015), Joel McHale (2014), Conan O'Brien (2013), Jimmy Kimmel (2012), Seth Meyers (2011) and Jay Leno (2010). The journalism community (along with Trump) widely criticized Wolf's performance earlier this year, while the comedic community's defense of Wolf further illustrated the divide between what is deemed appropriate during a night meant to celebrate free speech.

Wolf herself responded to the news by calling the WHCA "cowards" in a tweet. "The @whca are cowards. The media is complicit. And I couldn't be prouder," she wrote.

Chernow's appointment comes at a time when the Trump administration's tenuous relationship with the press continues to escalate. Trump heightened his anti-media rhetoric during the midterm elections and the White House is currently battling CNN in court over the decision to temporarily suspend reporter Jim Acosta's press credentials.

Trump did not attend the last two dinners, and it is unclear if he will attend in 2019.