When the White House Correspondents’ Association hosts its first dinner in two years on April 30, it’ll be matched by the return of another D.C. tradition: pre- and post- event receptions, dinners and brunches that have made for a weekend of socializing and schmoozing.
Among the night before parties: Funny or Die and People, which will co-sponsor a late-night fete at The Reach at the Kennedy Center. Both brands have new owners: Henry R. Munoz, III bought Funny or Die and Dotdash purchased People last year and it’s now led by now led by Leah Wyar and Liz Vaccariello. For both brands, this will be their first WHCD weekend event in several years. In 2006, People started an annual party with Time on the Friday evening before the dinner, and the event got to be known for its mix of Hollywood celebrities and White House figures, as well as a hefty swag bag. But that ended during Donald Trump’s years, as concerns grew over his animosity toward the press and sat out participation in the dinner itself.
Then came Covid, which sidelined the dinner and much of D.C. social calendar for nearly two years.
The concerns over the spread of the pandemic are still there. The Gridiron Club, another D.C. media organization, held its annual dinner for the first time since 2019, but that was followed by at least 72 positive Covid cases, including Attorney General Merrick Garland and Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo. Guests had to show proof of vaccination, but not a negative test.
After the apparent Gridiron outbreak, the WHCA added to its precautions for its dinner, with guests now asked to show proof of full vaccination as well as a same day, negative antigen test.
“The board’s policy is aimed at preventing anyone who is known to be infectious (as indicated by a positive result on a rapid antigen test) from spreading the virus at the dinner,” WHCA President Steve Portnoy wrote in a letter to members last week. “But nothing we implement to protect the ballroom can reach the many social events other organizers throw around our dinner. Bear that in mind.”
He added, “There are risks attendant to everything we’ll do over the next few weeks— hanging out with friends, going to briefings, attending Easter Sunday services or Passover Seders, and, of course, celebrating the First Amendment at our annual dinner. Each of us should judge our respective risk thresholds before engaging in any of these activities.”
C-SPAN has announced that it will cover the dinner, with C-SPAN.org and C-SPAN Now carrying the red carpet arrivals.
A number of events will have Covid protocols. Funny or Die and People, for instance, will follow Kennedy Center guidelines, including proof of full vaccination, and the event also will have a testing requirement.
For the uninitiated, the WHCA weekend has been dubbed the “nerd prom,” because of the sometimes surreal mix of L.A. and D.C. notables. During Barack Obama’s presidency, the size and scope of events surrounding the dinner grew, along with a heavy dose of celebrities. That could be the case again this year, as Trevor Noah will be the featured entertainer at the dinner, and the expectation that President Joe Biden will attend and, as is tradition, perform a bit of standup.
Plans for some fetes are still being finalized, but here’s a rundown of some of the other events through the weekend. More to come.
Thursday, April 28: Jordan Klepper performs at the Freedom Forum’s Free Expression Awards at The Anthem, honoring champions of freedom of speech, press, religion, petition and assembly. Alberto Ibargüen, Nikole Hannah-Jones, Eric Treene, Cynthia Choi, Russell Jeung and Manjusha P. Kulkarni are among the honorees; MSNBC host and Washington Post columnist Jonathan Capehart emcees.
Bytes & Bylines, an annual gathering of media, political and technology figures, will take place at the residence of the Ambassador to Ireland, Daniel Mulhall. Co-hosts are Allen Gannett, De’Ara Balenger, Eric Kuhn, Susanna Quinn, Sarah Kate Ellis and Stellene Volandes. Official sponsors are GLAAD and Town & Country.
Friday, April 29: NBCUniversal News Group hosts an event to celebrate its new bureau near Capitol Hill.
CAA hosts a kickoff cocktail party at the Viceroy Hotel, co-sponsored by Clear and ASP.
UTA hosts A Celebration of America’s Journalists at Fiola Mare, co-sponsored by GM.
The Creative Coalition’s Right To Bear Arts Dinner will take place at D.C.’s Lincoln restaurant, with a performance by KT Tunstall. The event will follow a “day of action” as members, led by President Tim Daly and CEO Robin Bronk, meet with lawmakers on Capitol Hill.
Saturday, April 30: The Washington Post canceled its pre-dinner reception at The Washington Hilton due to the increase in Covid cases, but other media outlets, including Politico and CBS News and ABC News, are still planning events. The Daily Beast also canceled its reception, but its editor in chief told Axios that it was due to the events in Ukraine. Two of their freelancers were shot while covering the war.
Sunday, May 1: Robert and Elena Allbritton host their annual Politico brunch at their home, an event that usually draws White House officials, lawmakers and business leaders.