The 2019 White House Correspondents’ Dinner will be headlined by historian and author Ron Chernow, the White House Correspondents’ Association announced in a press release on Monday.
The move breaks with the historical precedent of the organization to feature a comedian, like Michelle Wolf last year. In the release, Chernow made it clear that the decision to have him was explicitly in order to promote the First Amendment.
“The White House Correspondents’ Association has asked me to make the case for the First Amendment and I am happy to oblige,” Chernow said. “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.”
Chernow added that while he was no comedian, his would do his best to avoid being too “dry” on stage.
— WHCA (@whca) November 19, 2018
As a historian, Chernow is most famous for his biographies of American statesmen, including President Ulysses Grant and Alexander Hamilton. His book on the first U.S. Secretary of the Treasury was later adapted into the broadway mega-hit “Hamilton” by Lin-Manuel Miranda.
Bucking tradition, President Trump has refused to attend the annual event since he took office and has instead sent surrogates to represent him. Last year, Michelle Wolf’s brutal mocking of Sarah Huckabee Sanders made national headlines.
And though Trump was not named in the release, it’s hard to imagine, the decision to have Chernow was not a direct consequence of the anti-press rhetoric which has come from the White House over the last two years. In recent weeks, tensions with the media escalated further after Trump revoked the press credentials of his longtime nemesis Jim Acosta — a matter which is now being litigated in court.
The WHCA filed an amicus brief in defense of CNN and Acosta at the time and defended the network in an additional statement, saying they strongly supported the lawsuit to have Acosta reinstated.
“The President of the United States should not be in the business of arbitrarily picking the men and women who cover him,” said WHCA chief Olivier Knox.
— WHCA (@whca) November 13, 2018