WHCD 2017 in a Nutshell

by Catherine Trifiletti

Another White House Correspondent’s weekend in the books, and in true President Trump fashion he didn’t even let celebrated journalists get a breather Monday (see CBS interview). By not participating in the tradition of the WHCA’s event, the President took his disregard for the press to a new level making the events leading up to, and surrounding the dinner more about defending free press than simply celebrating it. “Daily Show” comedian Hasan Minhaj took the opportunity to slam Trump and make salient points about the First Amendment. “Only in America can a first generation Indian American Muslim kid get on this stage and make fun of the President,” he said.

The Parties:

Once Vanity Fair and the New Yorker backed out of hosting their annual soirees in early February, there was an immediate assumption that this year’s scene wouldn’t be on par to those prior. Hesitant hosts delayed sending invites, some waiting until the week before, but once it all played out, there were around the same number of parties as last year. Fashion was refreshing by Washington’s standards, especially on the brunch scene where lace-overlays (designer Self-Portrait was aplenty) and fitted floral numbers ruled for the ladies and light colored blazers and loafers for the fellas.

Celebrity counts were comparably tame, though the handful that did show made themselves known: Billy Bob Thornton performed with his band the Boxmasters (yes, that’s a thing) at Mother Nature Network’s jam at the Hamilton and, of course, Samantha Bee hosted an almost live taping of her TBS show “Full Frontal” called “Not the White House Correspondent’s Dinner,” where celebs and journos flocked to support free press.

Inspired by Independent Journal Review’s yearbook and choose-your-own superlative photo booth, we chose a few of our own:


Most Seen: Matthew Modine of “Stranger Things”; Neil Grace (FCC) and Nikki Schwab (Daily Mail); Jim Acosta (CNN)

Most Likely to Wear Sunglasses Inside: CNN president Jeff Zucker and Billy Bob Thornton

Best Dressed: Heather Podesta

Media Punching Bag: CNN. Poor CNN was targeted by both Bee and Minhaj for its dramatic news coverage

Best Cocktail: “The Nasty Woman” (basil, vodka and simple syrup) at Samantha Bee’s After Party

Best Music: The many journalist-led bands at the WHCD Jam featuring Chuck Leavell of the Rolling Stones

Best View: A giant donut wall at the Garden Brunch, courtesy of Georgetown’s Dog Tag Bakery

Best Decor:  A tie between circus-themed “hangover brunch” at LongView Gallery and POLITICO’s competing Havana-themed brunch at the home of Robert and Elena Allbritton

Best Schtick: “Drunk Dial Your Legislator” at Samantha Bee’s After Party

Best Party Favor: CNN’s rosé and bourbon gummy bears by Sugarfina


Washington Women in Journalism Awards // Gloria Dittus’ Residence

Photo by Tony Powell.

Gloria Dittus and Laura Cox Kaplan. Photo by Tony Powell.

Gloria Story Dittus, founder of public relations firm Story Partners, annually transforms her Kalorama home into a gathering ground for female journalists to be toasted. In its fourth year, the event co-hosted by Cathy Merrill Williams, recognized Cokie Roberts as distinguished journalist of the year, Mary Katharine Ham (CNN) as a rising star, Mary Louise Kelly (NPR) for her broadcasting work and Jane Mayer (New Yorker) for her success in print journalism.

 Spotted: Gloria Dittus all smiles manning the bar

Bytes and Bylines // DTR Modern Galleries

Eric Kuhn, Susanna Quinn, Allen Gannett and John McCarthy. Photo by Tony Powell.

Li Zhou, Ashley Gold, Margaret McGill and Nancy Scola. Photo by Tony Powell.

At the small two floor art gallery in Georgetown, the party, which links journalists to tech savvy Washingtonians, was more relaxed (and significantly more cozy) than last year at the Spanish ambassador’s residence. Guests sipped on gin cocktails from One Eight Distilling and chatted with co-hosts Susanna Quinn (Veluxe), Eric Kuhn (Layer 3 TV), Allen Gannett (TrackMaven) and democratic strategist John McCarthy.

Spotted: Partygoers marveling at co-sponsor Coravin’s innovative technology that allows you to pour a glass of wine without removing the cork

Independent Journal Review’s ‘Golden Age of Journalism’ // Carnegie Library

Andrew Behringer and IJR Founder Alex Skatell. Photo by Erin Schaff.

EventsDC’s Ashley Forrester and Shinola’s Tom Forrest. Photo by Erin Schaff.

More than just a cocktail party, this 500 person event officially kicked off the weekend with a Gatsby-approved blow out. Due to the popularity of their yearbook last year, the IJR team put a different spin on “The Labrador” with the help of comedian Dave Jorgenson, making it a Trump-owned copy with his scribbled notes spread throughout ie. a big star around Sean Hannity.

Spotted: IJR founder Alex Skatell posing with the event’s mascot, a real bald eagle

(More photos HERE)


Creative Coalition’s ‘Right to Bear Arts’ Benefit Gala Dinner // Flavio

Paul Strauss and Alyssa Milano. Photo by Erin Schaff.

Actor and Creative Coalition President Tim Daly. Photo by Erin Schaff.

Creative Coalition president and “Madam Secretary” actor Tim Daly together with CC’s CEO Robin Bronk, brought celebrities like Alyssa Milano, Wendi McLendon-Covey and Matt Walsh together to tout the group’s message in support of the arts. Celebrities held up Right to Bear Arts t-shirts on the red carpet before heading in for a three course meal with cocktails from Maestro Dobel Tequila, beers from Blue Moon brewing and wines from Line 39. Cosponsored by Hollywood on the Potomac, it was no wonder that the party had plenty guests from both locales; notable Washingtonians included Debbie Dingell (D-MI) and Howard Fineman. 

Spotted: Alyssa Milano signing a loitering fan’s old photo of her that he casually pulled from a FedEx envelope

(More photos HERE)

(Red carpet interviews by HOP: how celebs are reacting to Trump’s plan to cut funding for the arts HERE)

RealClearPolitics’ ‘Toast to the First Amendment’ // National Restaurant Association

Craig Maasaz, RealClear Politics DC Bureau Chief Carl Cannon, Jim McGreevy, and Steve Danon. Photo by Tony Powell

Francesca Chambers, Jesse Rodriguez, Tommy Hanson and Lisa Leonard. Photo by Tony Powell

Elbow room is a valuable commodity in the partying space surrounding WHCD weekend and the RealClearPolitics party had it at the National Restaurant Association or NRA’s (buns, not guns so the saying goes) two floor space. Co-hosts Distilled Spirits Council and Beer Institute offered whiskey and beer tasting tables; bites included mini tacos, empanadas and a whole dessert room.

Spotted: Thirsty partygoers sampling Macallan 18 and a beer with 28% alcohol by volume, also: CNN’s Brian Stelter, Independent Journal Review’s Erin McPike and Daily Mail’s Francesca Chambers

Atlantic Media’s White House Correspondents’ Dinner // David and Katherine Bradley’s Residence

Gen. James Mattis, Katherine Bradley and Sir Richard Branson. Photo by Tony Powell.

Jane Herman, Megan Murphy, Hilary Rosen and Heather Podesta. Photo by Tony Powell.

The exclusive annual dinner at the the Bradley residence (David Bradley owns Atlantic Media) draws high profile figures from all walks of Washington life to kickoff the WHCD weekend. You can bet intimate conversations across the lavishly decorated tables were about more than just the warm weather.

Spotted: Sir Richard Branson chatting with defense secretary James Mattis; the Washington Post reported Branson took an after dinner stroll to the neighboring Obama residence for a nightcap – when in Kalorama!

White House Correspondent’s Jam // Hamilton Live

Billy Bob Thornton performing with the Boxmasters. Photo by Joy Asico

Brooke Baldwin, Emily Murphy and Paul Kain. Photo by Joy Asico.

Billy Bob Thornton headlined the annual White House Correspondents Jam at the Hamilton hosted by Mother Nature Network and emceed by CNN’s Brooke Baldwin. A more casual event than most others (the invite calls for attire anywhere between “blue jeans and black tie”), the lion’s share of guests found it hard to resist the beckoning dance floor (with Rolling Stones’ Chuck Leavall on the keys, who could blame them?). Journalist-led bands included the New York Times’ Carl Hulse and The Native Makers and Wall Street Journal’s Mike Siconolfi and Six Stars.

 Spotted: Kiki Burger cheering on husband Tim while performing with his band Suspicious Package (led by Washington Post’s Tom Toles)

(More photos HERE)

United Talent Agency’s ‘First Amendment and Excellence in Journalism’ Event // Fiola Mare

Padma Lakshmi and Kal Penn aka Kumar! Photo by Tony Powell.

Billy Bob Thornton, Dana Bash and Spencer Garrett. Photo by Tony Powell.

Desiree Clinton, Nolan Gould and Dorothy Stein. Photo by Tony Powell.

Maria Trabocchi personally welcomed guests to the see and be seen event of the weekend with a good showing from many of Washington’s A-List and some of Hollywood’s too. United Talent Agency’s Jay Sures and Dan Abrams worked the crowd, while guests noshed on giant oysters, jumbo shrimp, calamari and artisan pizza.

Spotted: Ali Larter mingling with husband Hayes MacArthur on the outdoor deck; Billy Bob Thornton making good on his wish ahead of WHCD to chat with Dana Bash; Matthew Modine holding court at the bar

VOTO Latino ‘Our Voices: Uplifting Diversity in Media’ Event & WeWork New Media Reception // WeWork White House

Jonathan Capehart and Monique Dorsainvil. Photo by Alfredo Flores.

Paulina Ochoa, Tara Chantal Silver, Anchyi Wei and Michael Clements. Photo by Alfredo Flores.

The night started with a panel titled “Shaking Up The Newsroom” moderated by  Voto Latino’s Maria Teresa Kumar and Cenk Uygur of The Young Turks. Guests continued the conversation over drinks at WeWork’s lively New Media Party.

Spotted: A panel of guests including Jonathan Capehart, Maria Cardona and Rashida Jones discussing the importance of diversity in media (in front of the camera, behind the camera, and in the boardroom)

(More photos HERE)


Garden Brunch // Constance Milstein’s Residence

Tammy Haddad, Jeff Zeleny, Hilary Rosen and Don Lemon. Photo by Tony Powell.

Charlie Ein. Photo by Tony Powell.

NBC Anchor Stephanie Ruhle and Reese Hubbard. Photo by Tony Powell.

Tammy Haddad‘s annual brunch, co-hosted by Kevin Sheekey, Hilary Rosen (spotted looking chic in a navy jumpsuit), Kelley McCormick, Franco Nuschese, Fred Humphries, Mark and Sally Ein and Connie Milstein was a bunch of question marks until about a week before the annual event when the invitation finally rolled in. This year’s brunch was significantly more quaint, hosted under a tent in Milstein’s backyard instead of Ein’s Georgetown property. Heavy security was more for Milstein’s Picasso collection than high profile guests. Quiche cups wrapped in bacon, a donut wall by Dog Tag Bakery and plush white carpet were among the event’s pleasantries.

Spotted: Valerie Jarrett as the guest of her daughter Laura who recently switched careers from lawyer to CNN journalist; Mark and Sally Ein‘s adorable and fashionably-suited son Charlie working the red carpet cameras in a blue seer sucker ensemble and bow tie

Samantha Bee’s ‘Full Frontal’ Taping // DAR Constitution Hall

Jennifer Marie Brown and CNN’s Jake Tapper. Photo by Erin Schaff. 2017. ‘Full Frontal With Samantha Bee’ Presents ‘Not the White House Correspondents’ Dinner’. DAR Constitution Hall. April 29, 2017.

Van Jones. Photo by Erin Schaff.

Samantha Bee. Photo by Erin Schaff.

Despite the heat on the red (actually purple) carpet, there were worthwhile conversations to be had. On advice for Trump’s next 100 days Sam Bee was heard saying “the exact opposite.” Comedian and SNL alum Ana Gasteyer would like to see Trump “Listen! Ask and listen and be curious.” CNN’s Brianna Keilar thinks the weekend serves as a reminder for her and fellow journalists “you have a duty to the truth, you have a duty to communicate to americans in real time how things affect them and whats really going on,” she said. Canadian musicians Tegan and Sara said, despite it being un-Canadian of them, they have enjoyed watching Trump unravel a bit. Between interviews, journos and celebs were seen dabbing sweat with handkerchiefs and fanning themselves with anything in their reach.

 Spotted: Gasteyer joked in response to all the serious questions from reporters: “My dress is BCBG!”; Ali Larter sporting Planned Parenthood colors pink and white

(More photos HERE)

WHCD Pre-parties // Washington Hilton

Marty Baron, Fred Ryan and Bob Woodward. Photo by Tony Powell.

Bret Baier, Amy Baier, Sally Quinn, Vanessa Darroch and British Amb. Kim Darroch. Photo by Tony Powell.

Fox News’ Shannon Bream, Harris Faulkner, Janice Dean, and Elizabeth Prann. Photo by Tony Powell.

Franco Nuschese and WHC President Jeff Mason. Photo by Tony Powell.

CNN Analyst April Ryan. Photo by Tony Powell.

Angie Goff and Chris Matthews. Photo by Tony Powell.

Spotted: EVERYONE! in their Saturday best

Samantha Bee’s ‘Not the White House Correspondent’s Dinner’ After Party // POV Rooftop, W Hotel

Elvis Costello and Samantha Bee (Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for TBS)

The Drunk Dial Your Legislator booths (Photo by Jason Kempin/Getty Images for TBS)

Revelers enjoyed a gorgeous sunset while diving into burgers, crabcake sandwiches and specialty cocktails on the W’s rooftop in no particular order. Once the liquor set in, it was only fitting for partygoers to drunk dial their legislators courtesy of digital advocacy group Phone2Action. The organization reported on Twitter that a sober Rep. Scott Holcomb took the unique opportunity to dial himself making for an epic photo opp. The party, co-hosted by Vulture and New York Magazine, persisted well into the evening with two sets from musical legend Elvis Costello and a late night dance fest with DJ duo Pozzo (fog machines and all).

Spotted: Will Ferrell roped off and surrounded by security didn’t stop Rebecca Cooper from giving him props for his “Pearl the Landlord” bit; Dana Bash’s boyfriend Spencer Garrett, who you might recognize from every movie but not one in particular, rocking out to Elvis Costello; woman of the hour Sam Bee working the crowd with a large security guard close in tow; oh so many Instagram snaps in front of the “Free Press” banner of lights


Allbritton POLITICO Brunch // Robert and Elena Allbritton Residence

Those who didn’t faint from the morning’s hot temperatures, stayed late into the afternoon sipping mojitos at this exclusive annual brunch. The Havana-themed event came complete with festive cocktails, a roast pig, Cuban cigar station and an old T Bird for guests to pose in front of.

 Spotted: Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, Secretary of the Smithsonian David Skorton, Mayor Muriel Bowser and journalists Norah O’Donnell and April Ryan

CNN’s Hangover Brunch // LongView Gallery

Allison Gulice, Matt Dornic, Tammy Haddad and Rep. Debbie Dingell. Photo by Erin Schaff.

Alf Naman, Kimball Stroud, Matthew Modine and Kelley McCormick and Brian McCormick. Photo by Erin Schaff.

Steve Clemons, former Sen. Rick Santorum. Photo by Erin Schaff.

The CNN team (we’re looking at you Matt Dornic, Emily KuhnLauren Pratapas and  Richard Hudock) nailed the Sunday scene with a circus-themed bash that boasted “the greatest shows on earth.” Too many pleasantries to count, including but not limited to build your own bloody bar complete with bacon and stuffed olives; sword swallower; skeeball; life-size Connect Four; a ferris wheel offering rosé gummy bears and delectable flavored popcorn named after show hosts, ie. Blitzer’s Blazin’ Buffalo.

Spotted: Don Lemon keeping it casual in a white tee shirt, shorts and loafers playing shuffle board; Wolf Blitzer snapping photos of his billboard, then happily posing with fans in front of it; CNN president Jeff Zucker

(More photos HERE)

Look out for more coverage in our June issue.

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