WHCD 2019 In a Nutshell: Eyes on the Prize

by Catherine Trifiletti

The 2019 White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner and events surrounding it celebrated journalists without some of the usual pomp and circumstance.

For those wondering if the President’s absence (he attended a rally in Wisconsin instead) was an elephant in the room at this White House Correspondents’ dinner … White House Correspondents’ Association president Olivier Knox had this to say: “I don’t want to dwell on the president. This is not his dinner it is ours and it should stay ours.” Knox set the tone early in the weekend when we caught up with him at the Bytes & Bylines party on Thursday night. Having taken over the WHCA leading role last year, the SiriusXM chief Washington correspondent emphasized his goal of putting the spotlight back on hard-working journos, whose jobs seem to be more thankless than ever. On past dinners, he lamented, “You were more likely to run into a sitcom star than a sound engineer.” With a focus on the news makers instead of the glitzy celebs, this year’s weekend was low wattage, but not low energy. The biggest difference? More engaged conversations, less people gazing over your shoulder looking for someone more important to chat with. Taking the safe route where journalists could gain back the attention meant no controversial comedians at dinner. Instead, historian Ron Chernow offered a self-titled “20 minute sedative for the evening,” putting the festivities in historical context: “People are taking their comedians seriously and their politicians as a joke and that certainly describes our topsy-turvy moment.”

Thursday, April 25


Abby Phillip and Marcus Richardson; British Amb. Sir Kim Darroch and Lady Vanessa Darroch. MORE PHOTOS ON SMUGMUG.

Anderson House\ Photos by Joy Asico

Breezy spring weather allowed guests to fan out onto the patio and lawn of historic Anderson House to sip old fashioneds and mingle at the kickoff event of the weekend. The female journalists honored were Huff Po’s Amanda Terkel, NBC’s Andrea Mitchell, CNN’s Abby Phillip and WaPo’s Ashley Parker. Co-host Gloria Dittus made sure to point to their A-List abilities, quipping that their names all begin with an A.



Counterclockwise from left: Neil Price, Kevin Cirilli and Olivier Knox; Josh Dawsey, Jonathan Lemire and Meridith Mcgraw; Kasey Crowley and Rep. Joe Crowley; Audrey Henson and Jennifer DeCasper (photobomb courtesy of Rebecca and Sean Spicier). MORE PHOTOS ON SMUGMUG.

Irish Ambassador’s Residence\ Photos by Joy Asico

Any party that ends with a few dozen lingering guests belting out “Sweet Caroline” can automatically be classified as a success. Among the revelers: hosts Allen Gannett, John McCarthy, Eric Kuhn and Jennifer DeCasper. The light-hearted event is in its fourth year (its second in partnership with the Irish Ambassador Daniel Mulhall). Generous pours of peated whiskey from Kilbeggan Irish, live jazz and great conversation made the evening, which benefited the next generation of young reporters through the White House Correspondent’s Association Scholarship Fund, a great night.



Counterclockwise from left : Megan Murphy, Hilary Rosen and Fred Humphries; David and Katherine Bradley with Sen. Mark Warner; Adrienne Arsht and Kellyanne Conway; Jill Udall and Sen. Tom Udall; David Rubenstein and Stephanie Ruhle; Rep. John Delaney, Sally Quinn, Bill Weld and Leslie Marshall. MORE PHOTOS ON SMUGMUG.

The Bradley Residence | Photos by Tony Powell 

The annual dinner hosted by Atlantic Media Chairman David Bradley and his wife Katherine is an intimate tented backyard gathering studded with Washington luminaries.

Friday, April 26


Allana Harkin and Bradley Whitford; Samantha Bee; Mad Lib(eral)s

D.A.R. Constitution Hall \ Photos Courtesy of Getty/ TBS

After a year’s hiatus, sharp-witted comedian Samantha Bee welcomed Washingtonians back for a live taping of her TBS show “Full Frontal.” Guests got in her contagious jovial spirit by posing on life-size typewriters and playing political Mad Lib(erals). For a second year, the NWHCD raised money for the Committee to Protect Journalists.

Spotted: Appearances by Robert de Niro and a robot.


Robyn Bash, Anastasia Dellaccio, Jay Newton Small and Daniel Lippman; Tara Palmeri, Neil Grace and Nikki Schwab. MORE PHOTOS ON SMUGMUG.

WeWork, Metropolitan Square\ Photos by Vithaya Phongsavan

Playbook authors Anna Palmer, Jake Sherman and Daniel Lippman played host at the kickoff event. Palmer and Sherman are fresh off their book tour for “The Hill to Die On,” which has been making waves on the New York Times bestseller list.

Highlights: An artist sketching “Trump-O-Matic” caricatures


Counterclockwise: Sheila Casey and Michael Kelly; Hill Owner Jimmy Finkelstein and John Solomon; Rick Harrison and Rudy Giuliani; Adi Spiegelman and Trey Yingst; Questlove. MORE PHOTOS ON SMUGMUG.

Kogod Courtyard, The National Portrait Gallery \ Photos by Tony Powell

A live performance by Questlove was the story of this party, and really of the weekend if you ask any of the people on the dance floor who jammed hard to the Roots alum’s DJ set. Unfortunately, it took the third hour of his performance for tightly-wound guests to loosen up. For that we can thank the bartenders, who mixed up stiff signature cocktails including “Free Press’ made with rum, cider and pear liqueur. Kudos to Brian Donahue and Craft Media for not skimping on anything. Ah, if only every party had a bottomless budget.

Highlight: An impressive raw bar a la Windows Catering.

Spotted: VIPs wandering in and out of a closed off space, including Rudy Giuliani, which seemed significant at the time, until he showed up everywhere thereafter. Oh, and for what it’s worth – the guy from “Pawn Stars.”



Counterclockwise: Rep. Jim Moran, Qatar Amb. Meshal Bin Hamad Al Thani and Scott Thuman; Julia Richardson and Rep. Andre Cason; Augustine Gradoux-Matt, Vinoda Basnayake and Sarah Mueller; Damir and Amra Fazlic, Jackie Rooney and Jayne Visser; Britt McHenry. MORE PHOTOS ON SMUGMUG.

United States Institute of Peace | Photos by Tony Powell

When one of the richest countries in the world throws a party, you don’t want to miss it. It wasn’t long in the planning process Qatar and its media partner The Washington Diplomat enlisted a local public relations agency to bulk up their guest list – prime time Friday billing required the boost. All things considered, they did a very nice job with the help of sponsors Long & Foster | Christie’s International Real Estate and D.C. United. Middle Eastern-bites from Occasions included phyllo-wrapped everything.

Highlight: Entering a trance courtesy of artist Patricia Bennet‘s live painting of Qatari capital Doha’s skyline.


Counterclockwise: Carol Melton and Sam Feist; Charles Rivkin, Susan Tolson and Minnie Driver; Kelleth Cuthbert; Jay Sures and Dana Bash; Jake Tapper, Al Franken and Don Epstein.

Fiola Mare\ Photos by Daniel Swartz

With only one notable slip down the concrete stairs at the end of the night, quests appeared a bit more well-behaved at an event that typically involves some of the best people watching of the weekend. Owners of the Georgetown favorite, Fabio and Maria Trabocchi, may have put out carbs (yum, focaccia) to help the partiers keep pace.

Highlight: The small cigarette smoking crowd serving as the peanut gallery on the back deck.

Spotted: Minnie Driver – where have you been all our lives? Also, the Fiji Water Girl (Google it).

Saturday, April 27


Counterclockwise: Jay Leno and Don Lemon; Jonathan Taylor, Trish Yan and Doug Kammerer; Tammy Haddad, Lisa Barsoomian and Rod Rosenstein; Laura and Valerie Jarrett; Sally and Mark Ein with Chloe and Charlie; Kate Boldaun; Rep. Lauren Underwood. MORE PHOTOS ON SMUGMUG.

Beall-Washington House | Photos by Tony Powell

The usual parade of big black cars descending on Georgetown caused plenty of head turns from dog walking neighbors. During the award celebration, which recognized military veterans for their service, Jean Case handed out a “be fearless” award (she released her book “Be Fearless” last year) and Jay Leno gave away a car, after joking that organizers must have been scraping at the bottom of the barrel to have invited him to present.

Highlight: Tie between Compass coffee’s custom espresso bar and the tri-colored Bloody Mary bar by Design Cuisine – because, balance.


Alex Thomas and Nicole Lopez-Alvar; Noah Shachtman and Jackie Kucinich. MORE PHOTOS ON SMUGMUG.

The Hepburn | Photos by Naku Mayo

A young and fresh crowd ascended to the roof of the chic Hepburn apartment building next door to the Washington Hilton for a pre-dinner, pre-game.


Counterclockwise: Jack DeGioia; Gary Knell, Genny Ryan and Kim Larson; Bassima Al Ghussein and Jeh Johnson; Michael Beschloss with Jean and Steve Case; Geoff Bennett, Kristen Welker, Peter Alexander and Hallie Jackson; Marillyn Hewson; Cloe Luv, Jordan Emmanuel and Geena Rocero; Meredith McPhillips and Kayla Tausche. MORE PHOTOS ON SMUGMUG.

Washington Hilton | Photos by Tony Powell



Counterclockwise: Maria Espinoza; David Cohen and MSNBC President Phil Griffin; Francesca Chambers; Tom Perez and Cornell Belcher; Ryan Lizza and Olivia Nuzzi; Susan Rice, Ian Cameron, Suzanne Malveaux and Karine Jean-Pierre; Cristina Antelo and Gino Duda. MORE ON SMUGMUG.

Italian Embassy | Photos by Tony Powell

Battling Uber and Lyft surcharges and windy, rainy weather, guests lifted up their dresses and pant legs and trudged on to the spirited late night bash.

Sunday, April 28



Counterclockwise: Sen. Roy Blunt and Abigail Blunt with Mariella and Michael Trager; Robert and Dr. Elena Allbritton with Barbie Allbritton; Andrea Mitchell, Robin Davisson and Ginny Grenham; Shawna Thomas and Niki Christoff

The Allbritton Residence | Photos by Tony Powell

Politico’s stronghold on the weekend continued with the exclusive Allbritton Brunch, to which even the most exhausted don’t give up an invitation. Politico CEO Robert Allbritton and his wife Elena have mastered the hosting role, each year choosing a different theme to elate their guests – this year was all about California cool.


Matt Dornic and John Legittino; Lance Morgan and Gloria Borger with Lynn and Wolf Blitzer; Gloria Dittus and Rep. Debbie Dingell. MORE PHOTOS ON SMUGMUG.

1626 North Capitol St., NW | Photos by Ben Droz

A firehouse in Eckington got a head to toe New Orleans-style makeover courtesy of Advoc8 for the media behemoth’s hangover brunch. Guests washed down muffalettas and shrimp po’boys  with spiked “swampy” green juice and slushies. Upstairs, a secret Prohibition-style speakeasy channeled voodoo vibes accompanied by milk and brandy cocktails. Harmonica player Fred Yonnet and his band performed in the makeshift jazz room while CNN President Jeff Zucker hung by the string band outside.


Matthew Lauer and Samantha Sault; Art Smith; Spike Mendelsohn and Paul Strauss. MORE PHOTOS ON SMUGMUG

Hay Adams Hotel Roof | Photos by Ben Droz

“Top Chef” alum Spike Mendelsohn helped revive burned out guests with a bountiful brunch spread.










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