White House Correspondents' Dinner 2013 Celebrities and Tom Brokaw's Spite?


The Sunday after the 2012 White House Correspondents’ Dinner, Tom Brokaw attacked his former Washington colleagues for frolicking with Hollywood stars like Kim Kardashian. Appearing on Meet The Press and in later interviews he criticized the culture of Washington journalism, but what does he think about the students who benefit from the journalism scholarships presented at the dinner? Let’s hope we hear from him on Morning Joe this week in the countdown to the dinner.

Here is The Wrap’s take:
“As Conan O’Brien readies for a second performance as host of the festivities, oft called the “Nerd Ball,” this year’s guest list includes Harvey Weinstein, Steven Spielberg, Jeffrey Katzenberg, Nicole Kidman, Elizabeth Banks, Michael Douglas, Paul Rudd and Michael J. Fox.

Once again, this year’s dinner will cement Washington’s annual turn as Tinseltown on the Potomac, the main event in a weekend of social activities that includes not only the dinner itself, but cocktail parties, lunches, brunches and related dinners. The dinner will feature not only a funny speech by a top comedian, but a funny one by the President of the United States. This year the correspondents’ dinner will be televised on both MSNBC and C-SPAN.

In recent years the dinner, which raises money for journalism scholarships, has grown from a one-night event into a weekend that represents the height of the Washington social season and combines the crème of the Washington political set with Hollywood.

Vanity Fair and Bloomberg sponsor one after dinner party, while Atlantic owner David and Katherine Bradley sponsor a Friday night dinner in just a few of the events.

As before the stars will be plentiful this year.

Tina Brown is bringing Weinstein and Kidman on behalf of Newsweek and the Daily Beast. Her other Hollywood-oriented guests include Barry Diller, “The Newsroom’s” Olivia Munn and Joel Kinnaman of “The Killing.”

Time and Fortune are bringing Spielberg and Katzenberg as well as Julia Louis-Dreyfus and husband Brad Hall, and Olympics gymnast Gabby Douglas.

CNN, meanwhile, is hosting Banks, Rudd, Navid Negahban and Justin Bartha as well as University of Louisville guard Kevin Ware, who broke his foot in the March Madness college basketball finals.

Also read: Conan O’Brien Returns As Host of White House Correspondents Dinner

Arianna Huffington’s Huffington Post/AOL guests include Jon Bon Jovi, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Shaquille O’Neal, M.C. Hammer and super angel investor Ron Conway.

ABC News’ guests include “Modern Family” stars Sofia Vergara, Eric Stonestreet, Ty Burrell and Julie Bowen; “Nashville’s” Connie Britton, Hayden Panettiere and Charles Esten; and Shonda Rhimes, Kerry Washington and Tony Goldwyn of “Scandal.”

At CBS News, the guests include Claire Danes from Showtime’s “Homeland” and Daniel Dae Kim from “Hawaii Five-0.” Ryan Zimmerman of Major League Baseball’s Washington Nationals and celebrity chef José Andrés.

NBC News is bringing Michael Douglas (who voices the introduction of NBC’s “Nightly News”), Fox (who will star in an NBC comedy series next year loosely about his life), his wife Tracy Pollan and Matthew Perry, star of the network’s “Go On” series.

USA Today is bringing Courtney Cox, Kristin Chenoweth, Kate Walsh and Josh Gad.

The media outlets inviting Hollywood guests bring them to compliment more traditional Washington and their business guests.

CBS for instance is bringing several congressmen and retired Admiral Mike Mullet, former chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff. NBC’s other guests include members of the Federal Communications Commission, several senators and congressmen and several present and former White House officials.

Even as the event attracts glamor, it regularly attracts two kinds of criticism. Some question whether it replaces the picture of an adversarial and always questioning Fourth Estate with one in which reporters appear too chummy with the public officials they cover. Other critics point to the dinner’s Hollywood element and question whether raising reporters’ celebrity quotient hurts the press’s image with the public.

Last year The Washington Post’s Reliable Source column called the event, “decadent and depraved. It is elitist and shallow, smug and insidery, a three-day orgy of corporate preening and celebrity suck-up so far removed from its earnest D.C. journalism roots as to be completely meaningless.”

The column immediately dismissed its own criticism, suggesting the event was unchangeable, “so make the best of it.”

Other critics have been less sanguine. Jay Rosen, commenting on a decline in public confidence in the press showcased in a Gallup poll last year, called the dinner “ground zero” of concerns that the press is becoming part of the power structure.

“The glamorization of journalism after Watergate, combined with the influence of celebrity within the news tribe, plus the growing concentration of media ownership in a few large companies that themselves seek influence, [has] made mockery of the journalist as a courageous truthteller standing outside the halls of power,” Rosen wrote, saying all those concerns are on “vivid display” at the correspondents’ dinner.

Brokaw raised his concerns immediately after last year’s dinner. Speaking on NBC’s Meet the Press, he suggested the celebrities’ glamour disserves the media — increasing concerns the public has about “mainstream media” not fulfilling its traditional independent role.

“If there’s ever an event that separates the press from the people that they are supposed to serve, symbolically, it is that one,” said Brokaw. “It is time to rethink it.”

“I think George Clooney is a great guy. I would like to meet Charlize Theron. I don’t think the big press event in Washington should be that kind of glittering event where the whole talk is about Cristal champagne, taking over the Italian embassy, who had the best party, who got to meet the most people.

“That’s another separation between what we’re supposed to be doing and what the people expect us to be doing, and I think the Washington press corps has to look at that. It’s gone beyond what it needs to be,” Brokaw added.

Defenders of the dinner dismiss the criticisms suggesting that Washington reporters oft fierce and skeptical questioning of public officials hardly belies a press that has become part of the power structure. Instead they picture the dinner as a one night truce between the parties in 364 ¾ days of sustained conflict, a truce to raise money for a worthy cause.

Brokaw’s comments got an immediate push back last year from the correspondents’ group president Ed Henry, who noted in a radio interview that the event raised $100,000 for scholarships and that the Italian embassy event Brokaw mentioned was sponsored by Brokaw’s own MSNBC, not the correspondents association.

“I do think that there are challenges … that it sometimes looks too much like a celebrity fest and we have to do things to make sure that that doesn’t overshadow it, but we give a lot of money to needy students who are the next generation of journalists so there is a balance there,” said Henry.

Rosario Responds to Brokaw and Defends Celebs at WHCD

On Sunday, NBC’s Tom Brokaw chastized the White House Correspondents’ Dinner on Meet the Press by saying:

“…if there’s ever an event that separates the press from the people that they’re supposed to serve symbolically, it is that one.  It is time to rethink it… I don’t think the big press event in Washington should be that kind of glittering event where the whole talk about is Cristal champagne, taking over the Italian Embassy, who had the best party, who got to meet the most people.  That’s another separation between what we’re supposed to be doing and what the people expect us to be doing.  And I think that the Washington Press Corps has to look at that.  And by the way, I’m a charter member of the White House Correspondents Association.  I was there early on and often, and often enjoyed it.  But it’s gone beyond what it needs to be.”

Politico talked to actress and activist Rosario Dawson (MIB II, Sin City) who talked about how guests “aren’t just showing up on their own.  They’re being invited and they’re guests.” More importantly, they “are very much civically participatory.”  The WHCD serves as an opportunity for cause-driven celebrities to get in front of influential lawmakers and media personalities which may not occur otherwise.

Dawson herself is a spokeswoman for Amtrak’s National Train Day and co-founded an advocacy group, Voto Latino, which empowers Latinos to get involved politically.  In addition to attending the dinner, Dawson also is a regular attendee of the WHC Garden Brunch and this year jumped on stage with Willie Geist and Elle Macpherson and helped give away Jawbone Jamboxes to CURE Epilepsy and White Ribbon Alliance donors.

GE Celebrates the Reagan Era

It was an 80s flashback at the Ronald Reagan Building, fully equipped with glow bracelets, Atari games, giant dangling Rubik’s cubes, and breakdancers busting moves to a cover band.  Not a bad way for Fred Ryan, President and CEO of Politico and Chairman of the Board of Trustees for the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and GE Chairman and CEO, Jeff Immelt, to get a party started.  Add in Tom Brokaw and Andrea Mitchell and you have a Washington style party to celebrate the Centennial birthday of the 40th President of the United States, Ronald Reagan.

Jeff Immelt

Thanks to the new GE ads, we remember Reagan as a Hollywood heartthrob and popular host of General Electric Theater, which aired on CBS radio and television. GE honored their beloved star with a party and conversation on Wednesday. Jeff Immelt reminisced about starting with the company back in 1982 while Reagan was in office (Immelt’s father worked at GE, too).

NBC’s Tom Brokaw moderated the panel discussion and aside from interviewing the president several times, shared a birthday with him: February 6. Panelists included Politico’s Mike Allen, CNN Sam Feist, NBC’s Andrea Mitchell, Reagan White House Staffer Ed Meese, and former White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer.

Reagan was remembered as “The Great Communicator “ and Fleischer did not doubt the president could still wear the title in today’s media environment. “If Ronald Reagan had a Twitter account he would know what to say in 140 characters or less.”

Reagan only needed four words to go down in history. Ed Meese recalled how anotherspeechwriter, Peter Robertson, told the president that “tear down this wall” was too strong and the State Department would not be happy with the phrase. Reagan insisted, telling Mr. Gorbachev and the rest of the world to knock down the Berlin Wall on June 12, 1987, essentially the beginning of the end of the Cold War.

The Reagan Library has more information on centennial celebrations taking placethroughout the country.

Check out photos from the party and panel discussion below: