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White House Correspondents’ Dinner gets canceled again

Washington DC – The new president will have to wait until at least 2022 before famous comedians can dunk on him in front of a room full of journalists.

Ex-President Donald Trump did not attend the 2019 White House Correspondents' Dinner.
Ex-President Donald Trump did not attend the 2019 White House Correspondents' Dinner.  © IMAGO / ZUMA Press

The White House Correspondents’ Dinner has been called off for the second year in a row – a casualty of the pandemic.

"We have worked through any number of scenarios over the last several months, but to put it plainly: while improving rapidly, the COVID-19 landscape is just not at a place where we could make the necessary decisions to go ahead with such a large indoor event," said Steven Thomma, the correspondents’ association’s executive director.

At the annual event, affectionately called "nerd prom," journalists and a bipartisan guest list of powerful creatures of Washington get really dressed up and make small talk while consuming booze and fancy food.

The April 2020 dinner was first rescheduled for August as the coronavirus pandemic began to tighten its grip on the country, but the world has yet to reopen.

Even before that, the tradition was on rocky ground. Former President Donald Trump broke with a precedent established by previous presidents and declined to attend the event when he took office, and he forced his administration officials to do the same after Michelle Wolf burned the house down in 2018.

Historian Ron Chernow’s restrained keynote address in 2019 was delivered to a room that was sans Trump and amounted to a light toasting, not a typical presidential roast.

It’s not clear whether President Joe Biden will be a part of dinners in the future, but President Barack Obama was a regular. Thomma did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Awards and scholarships will still be distributed

Barack Obama and his "anger translator" Keegan-Michael Key at the 2015 White House Correspondents’ Dinner.
Barack Obama and his "anger translator" Keegan-Michael Key at the 2015 White House Correspondents’ Dinner.  © IMAGO / Everett Collection

The White House Correspondents’ Association has adapted to covering the end of the Trump administration and the beginning of the Biden administration during the pandemic times.

It restricted the number of journalists who can work from the White House and created an expanded pool rotation so "journalists can continue to safely work from the White House and fulfill their vital role in keeping the public informed."

As vaccines become more readily available and cases hopefully begin to decrease, Thomma said he expects to have more information in the coming weeks on how the WHCA plans to "safely begin easing some virus-related restrictions."

Despite canceling the soirée, the association will hold a series of events, give out its annual awards, and announce the latest cohort of its scholarship winners, Thomma said in his note to association members. But he vowed to keep the "nerd prom" tradition alive, promising future in-person, champagne-soaked, elbow-rubbing dinners for Washington’s elite.

"And last but surely not least," he wrote. "We will do all this in person next year, with the WHCA annual dinner on April 30, 2022."

Cover photo: IMAGO / ZUMA Press

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