The White House Correspondents’ Association is postponing its giant dinner scheduled for late April, but still hopes to hold the annual event this summer or fall if the coronavirus threat abates.
The WHCD joins a long list of prominent events that have been postponed or scrapped altogether in light of the coronavirus pandemic, which has sickened thousands across the globe and prompted calls for widespread “social distancing” in affected areas.
In the U.S., where Trump has declared the pandemic a national emergency, the outbreak has shuttered schools across the country, prompted the suspension of major sports leagues’ entire seasons, postponed music festivals and shut down American landmarks like the U.S. Capitol, Broadway and Disneyland.
Coronavirus has also thrown a wrench into the 2020 elections, with presidential campaigns ditching in-person rallies and at least one state moving to delay its primary elections.
The featured entertainment for this year’s iteration of the WHCA gala — the marquee event of a spring weekend around which a small ecosystem of elite gatherings has sprung — would have been Saturday Night Live cast member Kenan Thompson and comedian Hasan Minhaj.
The inclusion of comedy headliners at the dinner marked a return to historical precedent. The dinner, which celebrates political journalism by handing out awards and scholarships, has traditionally featured a comedy act as well as remarks from the sitting president. But after a sharply criticized set from comedian Michelle Wolf at the 2018 dinner, the WCHA opted for less controversial entertainment by picking historian Ron Chernow to serve as the night’s featured speaker.
President Donald Trump has, in keeping with his disruption of a laundry list of other presidential norms, refused to attend the dinner throughout his tenure in office. Instead, Trump has counter-programmed the glitzy event with political rallies in swing states that he won in the 2016 election. Last year, the president ordered administration officials to boycott the dinner. But he had not announced whether he planned to attend this year’s dinner.