The White House Correspondents’ Association will hold its annual dinner Saturday night, marking the return of a storied Washington tradition after a two-year hiatus due to the pandemic.
First held in 1921, the black-tie event is set to see its first sitting president attend since 2016, as Joe Biden prepares to deliver remarks to assembled journalists, celebrities and assorted VIPs. Donald Trump skipped the event when it was held during his presidency.
In many ways it’ll be back to normal for one of Washington’s biggest annual events — but organizers are taking precautions as COVID-19 lingers.
Following are some questions and answers about the event that’s often dubbed “nerd prom.”
Where is the dinner held, and how many people are going?
The Washington Hilton is home to the event, and the correspondents’ association says 2,600 tickets have been sold.
Celebrities like Kim Kardashian will reportedly attend. Trevor Noah, the host of “The Daily Show” on Comedy Central, will be the dinner’s entertainer.
While Biden is going, his chief medical adviser, Anthony Fauci, is not. The 81-year-old infectious-diseases expert has cited personal risks and said it’s up to others to make their own decisions.
What are the protocols for COVID?
Guests must be fully vaccinated and show proof of a negative COVID-19 test on the day of the event, per the association’s requirements.
Several VIPs tested positive for COVID after this year’s Gridiron Club dinner, held on April 2. That event reportedly required guests to show proof of vaccination, but the club, also a journalists organization, didn’t require them to submit a negative test. Among those testing positive after the Gridiron dinner were Attorney General Merrick Garland, Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo and Rep. Adam Schiff, a California Democrat, according to the Washington Post.
Is Biden taking extra precautions?
Yes. While the 79-year-old president wants to “showcase his support for the free press,” as White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters earlier this week, he won’t attend the dining portion of the dinner. He’ll give his own speech and be there for the presentation of scholarships as well as other speeches. Psaki said she expected Biden would wear a mask when he’s not speaking.
The event will be carried live on C-SPAN.
What were some key moments from dinners past?
In 2011, President Barack Obama roasted celebrity attendee Trump, leading some to speculate that the verbal drubbing and ensuing laughter ultimately motivated the New York real-estate mogul to mount his White House bid.
Comedian Michelle Wolf in 2018 made news of her own by taking a dig at the second of Trump’s four press secretaries, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, saying she “burns facts, and then she uses the ash to create a perfect smoky eye.” The correspondents’ association later said Wolf’s routine hadn’t been “in the spirit” of its mission.
In other years, as CNN rounds up, there was a double for George W. Bush, a video featuring Bill Clinton washing the presidential limousine and Ronald Reagan calling in to the event from Camp David, where he was recovering from the attempt on his life.
This year, the association will honor posthumously the first two Black women of the White House press corps, Alice Dunnigan of the Associated Negro Press and Ethel Payne of the Chicago Defender. Gayle King, co-host of “CBS Mornings,” will present the award to the reporters’ families at the dinner.