Ron Chernow is an award-winning author and historian who will speak at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner instead of a traditional comedian. Chernow is best known for his biography of Alexander Hamilton, which was the inspiration for the hit Broadway musical “Hamilton.”
The White House Correspondents’ Association announced that Chernow would serve as a speaker at the dinner a year after comedian Michelle Wolf came under fire for mocking White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders at the dinner, which has traditionally been a sort of comedy roast typically featuring a comic and a sitting president. President Trump did not attend the last two dinners.
Chernow is no fan of Trump. “I have been deeply disturbed by the Trump campaign — more deeply disturbed than by any other presidential campaign in our history. We’ve all been horrified by the many shocking statements this man has made, but no less frightening have been the omissions,” he said in 2016.
“I’m disturbed by the words missing from the Trump campaign: liberty and justice, freedom and tolerance,” he added. “Please, please, please folks don’t let it happen here.”
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Ron Chernow is An Award-Winning Biographer Who Inspired the Musical ‘Hamilton’
Chernow, a graduate of Yale and Cambridge, has written seven books and received the 2015 National Humanities Medal from then-President Obama, according to his official bio. The Brooklyn-based historian’s first book, “The House of Morgan,” which profiled four generations of the J.P. Morgan empire won the National Book Award. His biography of George Washington, “Washington: A Life,” won the 2011 Pultizer Prize for Biography. His book “Alexander Hamilton” served as the inspiration for the Broadway hit “Hamilton,” on which he served as a historical consultant.
He is the author of “Titan: The Life of John D. Rockefeller, Sr,” which Time magazine called “one of the great American biographies.” His most recent book, “Grant,” profiling the life of former President Ulysses S. Grant was a #1 New York Times best-seller.
2. Ron Chernow is a Former Journalist
Chernow began his career as a journalist and continues to write columns in The New York Times and Wall Street Journal, according to Good Reads. He is also a frequent guest on National Public Radio as well as CNN, Fox News, and CNBC. He was also featured as an expert on A&E’s biography of J.P. Morgan and in the upcoming CNBC documentary about John D. Rockefeller.
“The White House Correspondents’ Association has asked me to make the case for the First Amendment and I am happy to oblige,” Chernow said in a statement Monday. “Freedom of the press is always a timely subject and this seems like the perfect moment to go back to basics. 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.”
3. Ron Chernow is The First White House Correspondents’ Dinner Speaker Since Michelle Wolf
Ron Chernow will be the first speaker at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner since the firestorm sparked by comedian Michelle Wolf’s roast of Sarah Huckabee Sanders at the last dinner.
“And of course, we have Sarah Huckabee Sanders. We are graced with Sarah’s presence tonight. I have to say I’m a little star-struck. I love you as Aunt Lydia in ‘The Handmaid’s Tale.’ Mike Pence, if you haven’t seen it, you would love it.
“Every time Sarah steps up to the podium I get excited, because I’m not really sure what we’re going to get. You know, a press briefing, a bunch of lies or divided into softball teams. ‘It’s shirts and skins, and this time don’t be such a little b—-, Jim Acosta!’
“I actually really like Sarah. I think she’s very resourceful. Like she burns facts, and then she uses that ash to create a perfect smoky eye. Like maybe she’s born with it, maybe it’s lies. It’s probably lies.
“And I’m never really sure what to call Sarah Huckabee Sanders, you know? Is it Sarah Sanders, is it Sarah Huckabee Sanders, is it Cousin Huckabee, is it Auntie Huckabee Sanders? Like, what’s Uncle Tom but for white women who disappoint other white women? Oh, I know. Ann Coulter.”
After she was accused of mocking Sanders’ looks, Wolf replied on Twitter, “Why are you guys making this about Sarah’s looks? I said she burns facts and uses the ash to create a *perfect* smoky eye. I complimented her eye makeup and her ingenuity of materials.”
4. President Donald Trump Did Not Attend The Last Two White House Correspondents’ Dinners
President Trump, who has lashed out at White House reporters, has skipped the last two dinners and CNN reports that there is little reason to expect him to attend the upcoming dinner, which is set for April 27, 2019.
White House Correspondents’ Association President Olivier Knox told CNN that “when the president comes, the program’s center of gravity naturally tilts toward the president.” But because the president has not come, the dinner has had a “more combative feel.”
Knox said in a statement that the group wants to different tone at the next dinner.
“As we celebrate the importance of a free and independent news media to the health of the republic, I look forward to hearing Ron place this unusual moment in the context of American history,” he said.
5. The 2011 White House Correspondents’ Dinner May Have Sparked Trump’s Presidential Bid
Analysts have pointed to President Obama’s roast of Donald Trump at the 2011 White House Correspondents’ Dinner as a key event that prompted Trump to run for president.
Obama took aim at Trump’s birtherism and mocked his experience on “The Apprentice”:
there’s a vicious rumor floating around that I think could really hurt Mitt Romney. I heard he passed universal health care when he was governor of Massachusetts. Someone should get to the bottom of that.
And I know just the guy to do it -– Donald Trump is here tonight! Now, I know that he’s taken some flak lately, but no one is happier, no one is prouder to put this birth certificate matter to rest than the Donald. And that’s because he can finally get back to focusing on the issues that matter –- like, did we fake the moon landing? What really happened in Roswell? And where are Biggie and Tupac?
But all kidding aside, obviously, we all know about your credentials and breadth of experience. For example — no, seriously, just recently, in an episode of Celebrity Apprentice — at the steakhouse, the men’s cooking team cooking did not impress the judges from Omaha Steaks. And there was a lot of blame to go around. But you, Mr. Trump, recognized that the real problem was a lack of leadership. And so ultimately, you didn’t blame Lil’ Jon or Meatloaf. You fired Gary Busey. And these are the kind of decisions that would keep me up at night. Well handled, sir. Well handled.
Say what you will about Mr. Trump, he certainly would bring some change to the White House. Let’s see what we’ve got up there.
(Screens show “Trump White House Resort and Casino.”)
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