WEST PALM BEACH, Florida (AP) — President Donald Trump said he may attend next year’s White House Correspondents’ Association dinner now that organizers have scrapped the usual format featuring a comedian. But he may not be thrilled with the replacement.
The correspondents’ association announced this week that Pulitzer Prize-winning author Ron Chernow — biographer of presidents and statesmen including George Washington and Alexander Hamilton— will serve as the 2019 dinner’s featured speaker. But Chernow, like many of his fellow historians, strongly opposed Trump’s candidacy in 2016 and labeled him a “demagogue.”
That didn’t stop Trump from declaring victory Tuesday night after he arrived in Florida for a Thanksgiving-week break.
“So-called comedian Michelle Wolf bombed so badly last year,” he tweeted. “This year, for the first time in decades, they will have an author instead of a comedian.”
“Good first step in comeback of a dying evening and tradition!” he wrote, adding: “Maybe I will go?”
Presidents have traditionally attended the dinner. But Trump, who has an especially contentious relationship with the press, has skipped it the last two years.
Wolf’s sharply anti-Trump performance in 2018 was criticized by some as too pointed in its shots at White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders and other White House staff.
Chernow, for his part, in 2016 joined with other historians in expressing alarm at Trump’s campaign rhetoric.
“Like many other historians, I have been deeply disturbed by the Trump campaign — more deeply disturbed than by any other presidential campaign in our history,” he said in a video statement, expressing alarm that Americans might “forget who we are as a people and succumb to historical amnesia.”
“We’ve all been horrified by the many shocking statements this man has made, but no less frightening have been the omissions,” he went on to say, citing the then-candidate’s reluctance to say words like injustice and tolerance or express emotions like kindness, compassion and empathy.
Chernow said in a statement released by the association that he’d been asked “to make the case for the First Amendment” in his speech and was “happy to oblige.”
“Freedom of the press is always a timely subject, and this seems like the perfect moment to go back to basics,” he said, adding that, “While I have never been mistaken for a stand-up comedian, I promise that my history lesson won’t be dry.”
Chernow declined comment further when asked if his speech would include criticism of Trump.
Associated Press National Writer Hillel Italie in New York contributed to this report.