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Historian Ron Chernow Will Hold Dais At The White House Correspondents’ Dinner

Next year’s White House Correspondents’ Association dinner may not be as controversial — or funny — as this year’s.

The WHCA announced on November that Ron Chernow, the Pulitzer-winning biographer of Alexander Hamilton, George Washington and John D. Rockefeller, will be the featured speaker of the festivities on April 27, 2019.

The selection of Chernow is a major departure for the annual event, which gathers White House officials and the press. In the past comedians have held the dais for a night of levity and comity between groups that sometimes have a contentious relationship.

In 2018 comedian Michelle Wolf hosted the evening; she drew criticism from the White House and the WHCA for jokes that some believed targeted Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ looks. Wolf’s performance led to a larger debate about the nature and mission of the dinner and its focus on the First Amendment, a matter Chernow was invited to address in his speech.

“Freedom of the press is always a timely subject, and this seems like the perfect moment to go back to basics,” Chernow said in a statement. “My major worry these days is that we Americans will forget who we are as a people and historians should serve as our chief custodians in preserving that rich storehouse of memory. While I have never been mistaken for a stand-up comedian, I promise that my history lesson won’t be dry.”

Chernow’s books have been bestsellers and one has even made him something of a pop sensation, with his biography of Hamilton serving as the basis for Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Tony-winning musical “Hamilton.” But not all are pleased with a historian taking the place of a comedian.

Wolf attacked the WHCA announcement on Twitter, writing “the [WHCA] are cowards. The media is complicit. And I couldn’t be prouder.”

PJ Grisar is the Forward’s culture intern. He can be reached at [email protected]

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