By Amanda Egan, Contributor
Some call it “nerd prom” — I like to call it Washington’s equivalent of a “Comedy Central” Roast. Whatever you’d like to call it, the White House Correspondents’ dinner has established a reputation as an evening in which celebrities and politicians can fraternize and join together in a good-natured bashing of the current president. Although it also serves as a night to recognize and honor journalists for their accomplishments, the most controversial — and therefore the most discussed — parts of the night tend to come from the speech given by a famous comedian. Past guests include Stephen Colbert, Wanda Sykes, Conan O’Brien, Cecily Strong and Seth Meyers, just to name a few. It is also customary for the president himself to attend and make a speech which humorously addresses his critics. The White House Correspondents’ Dinner is a long-time American tradition, but there is no doubt that this year’s event will be very, very different.
Given President Trump’s (putting it mildly) rocky relationship with the press, the usual good-natured fun of the event may be lacking this year. Although it has been confirmed that the event will indeed go on, there is still the question of whether the president himself will attend. There is also question about who will be this year’s in-house comedian, as Trump has been especially vocal about his disdain for the political satire present in many late-night talk shows and, in particular, “Saturday Night Live.” But concerns about this year’s dinner are not solely because of Trump – for the first time ever, there is another program that will be competing for viewership.
Samantha Bee, host of the unapologetically satirical TBS talk show “Full Frontal,” will be throwing a sort of anti-nerd prom. She is calling it, quite simply, “Not The White House Correspondents’ Dinner.” “The evening is sure to bring plenty of surprises, music, food, and laughter – and if you’re not careful you just might learn something. Specifically, you’ll learn how screwed we’d be without a free press,” said Bee upon announcement of the event. Proceeds from this program will be going toward the Committee to Protect Journalists.
It is abundantly clear that the goal of this event is to make a statement against Trump’s continuous hateful remarks towards journalists, which have created an increasingly hostile media. The question is whether this night will be a thought-provoking protest or simply another opportunity to lament Trump’s actions. There is certainly no justification in the actions of President Trump — after a mere three weeks on the job, he has repeatedly lied about the size of his inauguration crowd, signed an executive order which has divided countless families and delivered a speech for Black History Month, only to use the opportunity to continue to insult the press and defend himself. But the press has also fueled the fire of negativity and uncertainty felt by many Americans. Although we should all be able speak out against these injustices that are occurring in this country, we should be mindful of the tone in which we argue for justice. There will surely be no shortage of controversial humor at Bee’s “Not The White House Correspondents Dinner” – but among the jokes I hope to see confident rhetoric which attests to the resilience of this country and reminds people that, even amidst a hostile administration, we are the ones in power.