For the second year in a row, President Donald Trump did not show up to the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, but there was still plenty of politics on hand.
Unlike last year, when no White House staffers attended, many past and present staff showed up, including Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary; Kellyanne Conway, the counselor to the president; Sean Spicer, former White House press secretary; and Reince Priebus, former White House chief of staff. Other members of the government in attendance included Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, and Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen.
“Last year, people were embarrassed to come,” said Demond Younger, a journalist with D.C. Hot Spots to RealClearLife. He explained that in 2017, celebrities would barely stand for 30 seconds in front of the photographers on the red carpet, but this year, they stayed a little longer. “Last year, they were kind of dragging their feet.”
This year, Sanders told CNN that “the president encouraged his staff and all of us to attend. And so we did, and we felt like it was important for us to come out and be here.” During his rally in Michigan earlier on Saturday, Trump called the dinner “phony,” and called members of the press “very, very dishonest people.”
The first Correspondents’ Dinner was held on May 7, 1921, when 50 men congregated at the Arlington Hotel in Washington. But the president did not attend the dinner until 1924 when Calvin Coolidge went. Since then, every president since has appeared at least once, until the Trump administration.
During her opening remarks, Margaret Talev, president of the White House Correspondents’ Association, pointed out that Sanders was at the head of the table instead of Trump.
“U.S. presidents have attended this dinner nearly every year since Calvin Coolidge’s days. And that’s a tradition we believe will withstand the currents of time,” she said.
Talev also discussed the core of journalism during her remarks, saying that real news can be “happy, heart-warming, or heart-breaking and critical” or it can make you “angry.” But, Talev said, “we reject efforts — be it anyone, especially our elected officials — to undermine journalism as un-American.”
The Red Carpet
A freelance photographer who started photographing the event during the Obama years (he wished not to be named), told RealClearLife that the red carpet was 50 percent bigger and there were more celebrity appearances under the Obama administration. However, he does “think it says a lot” that members of Trump’s administration showed up this year.
The red carpet had a relaxed atmosphere this year. There was a strong sense of camaraderie among journalists documenting the event, with plenty of jokes being tossed around, and help being offered. Guests like Spicer and Sanders waved and joked with those working, but others, like former Governor Chris Christie, avoided the red carpet altogether — causing someone in the crowd to joke that he was “afraid to get in trouble again, the last time he got his picture taken didn’t go over that well.”
According to Younger, the red carpet last year was only busy for about an hour, but this year, he started working at 3:30 p.m. and was just wrapping up when he spoke to RCL around 7:30 p.m.
Comedian Michelle Wolf performed at the dinner this year. She opened by commenting on the scandal surrounding Trump and his alleged affair with adult film star Stormy Daniels.
“It’s 2018, and I’m a woman so you can not shut me up. Unless you have Michael Cohen wire me $130,000,” she said.
Wolf went on to joke about Trump’s wealth.
“Mr. President, I don’t think you’re very rich. Like, you might be rich in Idaho, but in New York, you’re doing fine.”
The comedian, who told GQ earlier this week she wasn’t going to hold anything back, lived up to that promise, and there were not many people who she didn’t incorporate into her jokes.
“We are graced with Sarah’s presence tonight. I have to say I’m a little star struck. I love you as aunt Lydia in The Handmaid’s Tale,” Wolf said. “I actually really like Sarah,” she continued. “I think she’s very resourceful. But she burns facts and then she uses that ash to create a perfect smokey eye.”
Wolf also mocked Congress saying, “I’m here to make jokes, I’m not here to get anything accomplished. So members of Congress should feel right at home.” She went on to tease CNN, saying, “You guys love breaking news and you did it, you broke it.”
Other people included in Wolf’s takedown were: Eric Trump, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, Former Trump chief of staff Reince Priebus, Hillary Clinton, the Democrats, Former Fox host Bill O’Reilly, Vice President Mike Pence, Ivanka Trump, and more.
Check out some photographs of the red carpet below.