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Post-Michelle Wolf, biographer Chernow to headline White House Correspondents Dinner

  • November 20, 2018

WASHINGTON – Months after comedian Michelle Wolf made controversial remarks at the White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner, the group announced Monday that biographer Ron Chernow will headline the the organization’s 2019 dinner. 

Chernow, whose 2004 biography of Alexander Hamilton was later adapted into the critically-acclaimed Broadway musical, is an acclaimed author and one of the most “eminent biographers of American presidents and statesmen,” WHCA said.

“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,” WHCA President Olivier Knox said in a statement.

The organization’s annual dinner typically features a notable comedian. But this year’s guest Wolf drew controversy with her remarks, which included jabs at Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

“I actually really like Sarah. I think she’s very resourceful,” Wolf said at the dinner. “She burns facts and then she uses that ash to create a perfect smoky eye. Maybe she’s born with it, maybe it’s lies. It’s probably lies.”

More: The Bubble: Liberals and conservatives debate whether Michelle Wolf went too far

More: Michelle Wolf ‘wouldn’t change a single word’ she said at White House Correspondents Dinner

Wolf’s routine was criticized by many, including members of the press. Former WHCA President Margaret Talev later released a statement that Wolf’s comments did not uphold the organization’s mission to offer a “unifying message about our common commitment to a vigorous and free press.”

“Every day we are working hard to advocate for our members and ensure coverage that benefits the public, and the dinner is an important opportunity to highlight and maintain our essential work,” the statement read.

After WHCA’s announcement on Monday, Wolf called the group “cowards.”

“The @whca are cowards. The media is complicit. And I couldn’t be prouder,” she wrote on Twitter.

The last time the dinner featured a non-comedian was in 2003, when singer Ray Charles provided entertainment.

For his part, Chernow promised that he wouldn’t “be dry.”

“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 said. “While I have never been mistaken for a stand-up comedian, I promise that my history lesson won’t be dry.”

Knox noted Chernow brings a “deeply researched” perspective on American politics. Chernow has chronicled the lives of many American businessmen, Founding Fathers and past presidents.

His most recent biography of President Ulysses Grant was named one of the 10 best books of the year by the New York Times. 

The recipient of awards like the Pulitzer Prize for Biography and the National Medal for Humanities, Chernow said his speech at the WHCA dinner is a “perfect moment to go back to basics” on the First Amendment.

President Donald Trump has yet to attend the dinner, a notable departure from the conduct of past presidents. Trump has repeatedly called for the WCHA dinner to end, calling it a “disaster and an embarrassment.” 


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  • Michelle Wolf had the audience howling and wincing1 of 28
  • She served up slams for President Trump, his daughter2 of 28
  • White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders,3 of 28
  • Sanders was skewered by Wolf onstage.4 of 28
  • Prior to the dinner, several celebrities walked the5 of 28
  • Former White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer with6 of 28
  • Spicer called the evening a disgrace in a tweet.7 of 28
  • Omarosa Manigault-Newman and her husband,  John Allen8 of 28
  • Reverend Al Sharpton9 of 28
  • Filmmaker-activist Rob Reiner and Michele Singer Reiner10 of 28
  • Counselor to the President Kellyanne Conway11 of 28
  • Actor Steve Howey12 of 28
  • Journalist Don Lemon, left, and Tim Malone13 of 28
  • Parkland shooting survivor and activist Charlie Mirsky14 of 28
  • Olympian Jordyn Wieber15 of 28
  • Comedian Michelle Collins16 of 28
  • Actor Madchen Amick17 of 28
  • Actor and White House press assistant Caroline Sunshine18 of 28
  • WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 28:  Comedian Michelle Wolf19 of 28
  • WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 28:  Michelle Wolf attends the20 of 28
  • WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 28: (L-R) Don Lemon, Jordan21 of 28
  • WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 28:  Miguel performs onstage22 of 28
  • WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 28:  Playboy Enterprises Chief23 of 28
  • Gold medalist and Olympic gymnast Jordyn Wieber at24 of 28
  • USA TODAY publisher Maribel Perez Wadsworth and editor25 of 28
  • Shameless star Steven Howie USA TODAY publisher Maribel26 of 28
  • Washington Bureau Chief Susan Page and Riverdale27 of 28
  • USA TODAY Money editor Philana Patterson, Washington28 of 28


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