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The White House Correspondents' Association (WHCA) is an organization of journalists who cover the President of the United States. The WHCA was founded in 1914 by journalists in response to an unfounded rumor that a Congressional committee would select which journalists could attend press conferences of President Woodrow Wilson. Among the issues handled by the WHCA are press access to the President and physical conditions in White House press briefing rooms.


The president of the association is Jennifer Loven of the Associated Press.

WHCA Dinner

The WHCA's annual dinner, begun in 1920, has become a Washington, D.C.marker tradition and is usually attended by the President and Vice President. Thirteen presidents have attended a WHCA dinner, beginning with Calvin Coolidge in 1924. The dinner is traditionally held on the evening of the last Saturday in April at the Washington Hiltonmarker.

Prior to World War II, the annual dinner featured singing between courses, a homemade movie and an hour-long, post-dinner show with big-name performers." In recent years the featured speaker has often been a comedian, with the dinner taking on the form of a roast, especially of the President.

In several recent years, the dinner has fallen shortly after major national events and tragedies, such as the Oklahoma City bombingmarker, the Waco incidentmarker, the Columbine shootingmarker, and the Virginia Tech Massacremarker, thus dampening the spirit of the event.

Dinner criticisms

The WHCD has been increasingly criticized as an example of the coziness between the White House press corps and the Administration. The dinner typically includes a skit, either live or videotaped, by the sitting President in which he mocks himself, for the amusement of the press corps. The press corps, in turn, hobnobs with Administration officials, even those who are unpopular and are not regularly cooperative with the press. Increasing scrutiny by bloggers has contributed to added public focus on this friendliness.

After the 2007 dinner, New York Times columnist Frank Rich implied that the Times will no longer participate in the dinners. Rich said that the event is "a crystallization of the press's failures in the post-9/11 era" because it "illustrates how easily a propaganda-driven White House can enlist the Washington news media in its shows."

In recent years, the dinners have drawn increasing public attention each year as the entertainers draw more interest, and the guest list grows "more Hollywood". The attention given to the guest list and entertainers often overshadows the intended purpose of the dinner, which is to "acknowledge award-winners, present scholarships, and give the press and the president an evening of friendly appreciation." This has led to an atmosphere of coming the event only to "see and be seen." This usually takes place at pre-dinner receptions and post-dinner parties hosted by various media organizations, which are often a bigger draw and can be more exclusive than the dinners themselves.

Notable performances

1945 Performers included Frank Sinatra, Danny Thomas, Jimmy Durante, Fanny Brice and Danny Kaye.
1969 President Richard Nixon personally requested the Disneylandmarker Golden Horseshoe Revue.
1976 The dinner featured Bob Hope as emcee and Chevy Chase. When President Ford rose to speak, he "accidentally" caught a tablecloth in his trousers, causing silverware to fall in Chase's lap. He also pretended to trip as he approached the podium, flinging pages he was carrying into the audience—he then began his speech with "Good evening. I'm Gerald Ford and you're not" (a reference to Chase's catchphrase from Weekend Update).
1985 Rich Little and President Ronald Reagan in a dual press conference skit.
1988 Yakov Smirnoff
1989 Jim Morris
1991 Sinbad
1993 Elayne Boosler
1994 Al Franken
1995 Conan O'Brien
1996 Al Franken
1997 Norm Macdonald
1998 Ray Romano
1999 Aretha Franklin, entertainment (NBC's Brian Williams in skit)
2000 Outgoing President Bill Clinton mocked himself in the short film President Clinton: The Final Days, which depicted him as a lonely man closing down a nearly-deserted White Housemarker, riding a bicycle, and learning about the Internet with the help of actor Mike Maronna as his character "Stuart".
2001 Darrell Hammond and Survivor spoof
2002 Drew Carey (singer Ozzy Osbourne also attended)
2003 Ray Charles, entertainment
2004 Jay Leno
2005 Cedric the Entertainer, plus some jokes by First Lady Laura Bush.

The 2006 dinner attracted substantial media attention due to featured speaker Stephen Colbert's satire of a right-wing cable television pundit. Several of Bush's aides and supporters walked out during Colbert's speech, and one former aide said that the President had "that look that he's ready to blow."
2007 The 2007 dinner took place on April 21, 2007. Entertainment was provided by impersonator Rich Little, with David Letterman appearing by video with a Top 10 list of "favorite George W. Bush moments."

The choice of Little, following controversy over Stephen Colbert's biting routine the previous year, itself drew controversy. Little's appearance was slammed by critics, included several jokes and impersonations that drew little or no laughter, and others considered racy for a black-tie banquet crowd. In his opening speech before the comedic routine, he insulted Stephen Colbert's performance from the year before and tried to deflect the lack of laughter from his own audience by saying "and you thought Colbert was bad." He appeared ill-prepared with little new material and numerous decades-old references.
2008 In response to widespread criticism due to entertainer Rich Little's poorly-received performance at the 2007 dinner, WHCA president-elect Ann Compton has said that while "there is no entertainment that is perfect," choices of future entertainers will not be made "to please a presidential staff, [or] to be politically correct."

The entertainer that year was Scottishmarker-Americanmarker comedian Craig Ferguson, host of The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson.
2009 The 2009 WHCA Dinner took place on May 9 at the Washington Hilton. Wanda Sykes was the featured entertainer.

See also


  1. Unverifiable leak leads to modern WHCA, from the WHCA website
  2. Joe Strupp, Incoming WHCA Prez: Next Year's Dinner Will Not Be 'Politically Correct' , Editor and Publisher, April 25, 2007
  3. Joe Strupp, WHCA Prez Defends Dinner Amid Criticism Of 'Coziness' and Rich Little, Editor and Publisher, April 24, 2007
  4. Frank Rich: All the President’s Press, New York Times, April 29, 2007
  5. Libby Copeland and Dana Milbank, The In-Crowd Steps Out: After the Correspondents' Dinner, Parties Are Icing on the Cake, Washington Post, April 23, 2007
  6. Taking Names, Washington Times, April 23, 2007
  7. Julie Mason, News Watch: The White House blog, Houston Chronicle, April 22, 2007
  8. Ashley Parker, Celeb-Watching at the Correspondents Dinner, The Caucus blog, New York Times, April 22, 2007
  9. Jeff Dufour and Patrick Gavin, Yeas & Nays, The (Washington) Examiner, April 23, 2007
  10. Humor played big role in Ford's persona, a December 2006 Deseret News article via
  11. Remarks at the Annual White House Correspondents Association Dinner, from the website of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library
  12. "Impressionist Jim Morris began his Bush bit in silence - just moving his head, sort of stammering, trying to get some words out. The president [Bush], watching Morris do his inarticulate-thing, started laughing hard, and finally held his big white dinner napkin over his face." The Washington Post - also Coverage By the Seattle Post-Intelligencer's Joel Connelly
  13. "The comic genius brought in to entertain at the association's 77th annual black-tie dinner by Sheridan Broadcasting Company's Robert Ellison, the first and only Black president of the elite organization, brought down the house with hilarious quips and jokes about Bush's less than impressive fishing skills." Jet Magazine, May 20, 1991.
  16. Inside Washington: Skewering comedy skit angers Bush and aides from US News and World Report
  17. Bush Doesn't Joke at WHCA Dinner Due to Virginia Tech Killings—But Rich Little Says 'Nuts', an Editor & Publisher article

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