January 30, 2017

This year, Samantha Bee won’t be a guest at the annual White House Correspondents’ Association dinner — she’ll be hosting her own.

Bee, the host of “Full Frontal,” on TBS, will be skewering President Trump on the same night that journalists are hobnobbing with their sources during a televised banquet in Washington, D.C.

The event, called “Not the White House Correspondents’ Dinner,” is not a parody version of the annual Washington rite, which is under greater scrutiny this year given Trump’s fraught relationship with the press. In an interview with The New York Times, Bee said she just wants to “ensure that we get to properly roast the president.”

“We were talking out loud about whether we thought the White House Correspondents’ dinner would change during a Trump presidency, or if it would even exist,” she said. “And then we thought, Why don’t we just do one, just to do it in the way that we would want it done if we were hosting it?”

When asked to respond to news of Bee’s event, White House Correspondents’ Association president Jeff Mason said the association is looking forward to its upcoming dinner.

“The WHCA looks forward to hosting our annual dinner this year as we do every year to celebrate the First Amendment, reward some of the finest reporting of the past year and recognize promising young student journalists,” Mason wrote.

Proceeds for the event will go to the Committee to Protect Journalists, which has been on a fundraising streak since Meryl Streep touted the press freedom organization in her speech to the Golden Globes.

“CPJ is grateful for the recognition of our work that this pledge makes, and we appreciate the support from Samantha Bee and her staff,” Courtney Radsch, advocacy director at the Committee to Protect Journalists, told Poynter.

The White House Correspondents’ Association dinner (the actual one) has been criticized in recent years by journalists who point to the gala as evidence of a buddy-buddy relationship between journalists and the people they cover.

The scholarship portion of the dinner has also seen scrutiny from media observers. The percentage of money from the dinner donated to scholarships has decreased in recent years from 60 percent in 2009 to 21.5 percent in 2014, a breakdown that experts interviewed by Washingtonian said was an indicator of self-interest taking priority over philanthropy.

The guest list for Bee’s soireé hasn’t been finalized yet. But, given Trump’s obvious scheduling conflict, don’t count on him to attend the dinner. He’ll be on the menu.

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Benjamin Mullin was formerly the managing editor of Poynter.org. He also previously reported for Poynter as a staff writer, Google Journalism Fellow and Naughton Fellow,…
Benjamin Mullin

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