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November 20, 2018

White House Correspondents' dinner will not have a comedian host for first time since 2003

Michelle Wolf's set during the 2018 dinner led the association to rethink its formula

White House Politics
michelle wolf white house C-SPAN/YouTube

Michelle Wolf at the 2018 White House correspondents' dinner.

Michelle Wolf's comedic performance at the 2018 White House Correspondents Dinner may be the last of its kind, at least for the next couple of years.

For the last several decades, the annual event has selected a comedian to host the event and, in turn, roast the White House, the media, and the general year in politics.

Conan O'Brien, Jay Leno, Jon Stewart, Cedric the Entertainer, Stephen Colbert, Wanda Sykes, Seth Meyers, Hasan Minhaj, are among the event's past hosts. In 2003 when President George W. Bush was in the White House, musician Ray Charles hosted rather than a comedian, and the event took on a more subdued tone as the United States had recently invaded Iraq.

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The White House Correspondents' Association announced Monday that the next dinner will change the formula used in recent year. In 2019, a year after Wolf delivered a skewering and controversial takedown of the Trump Administration, the White House will instead welcome author and Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer Ron Chernow as its speaker.

Chernow is perhaps best known for writing the 832-page biography of Alexander Hamilton that on which Lin-Manuel Miranda based "Hamilton: An American Musical."

The association has reportedly been debating whether to continue including a comedian as the dinner's host since Wolf's performance. According to CNN, the association felt the controversy surrounding her monologue overshadowed the dinner's First Amendment message. 

Of course, Wolf's monologue also lined up with the second year in a row President Donald Trump opted to skip the dinner, which has been typically attended by the sitting president. Olivier Knox, president of the White House Correspondents' Association, told CNN, "when the president comes, the program's center of gravity naturally tilts toward the president."

The announcement garnered some backlash on Twitter, including from Wolf, who called the move cowardly.

"The White House Correspondents' Association has asked me to make the case for the First Amendment and I am happy to oblige. Freedom of the press is always a timely subject and this seems like the perfect moment to go back to basics," Chernow said in a statement.

"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."

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