| The gala at the Washington Hilton has grown more awkward with each passing year. Working journalists and their bosses invite Hollywood celebs as their "guests," and then join them on a red carpet before the dinner to be interviewed by CNN and ogled on C-SPAN. Not a pretty picture.
The evening's "entertainment" consists of Friar's Club-style comedy routines––first by a hired comedian, and then by the President of the United States.
Should this carnival go forward with Donald Trump in the White House? Some argue that boycotting or canceling the event this year would send a strong signal to Trump, whose remarks about journalists have been beyond harsh.
The countering view is that the dinner is not about any individual leader but the institution of the presidency. To skip the event would buttress the administration's claim that the press is anti-Trump.
A simpler, more appropriate solution, is to discontinue the event entirely, no matter who occupies the Oval Office, and come up with an alternate fund-raiser for the scholarships and awards that the evening supports.
The hired entertainers have ranged from the quirky (Cicely Strong), to the mundane (Jay Leno), to the boring (Rich Little), to the embarrassingly unfunny (Larry Wilmore).
Last year's shtick by Wilmore set a new low, beginning with, "Welcome to Negro night" and ending with the comedian calling President Obama "my nigga."
Trump, who would be the piñata for this year's still-unannounced host, was savaged in this forum by Seth Meyers in 2011. One example: "Donald Trump has said he's running for president as a Republican," Meyers quipped, "which is surprising because I assumed he was running as a joke."
Cameras were trained on Trump as he sat stone faced through Meyers' routine, seemingly seething.
Last year, President Obama said of Trump: "There's one area where Donald's experience could be invaluable, and that's closing Guantanamo, because Trump knows a thing or two about running waterfront properties into the ground."
Would Trump show up for this year's event? No one's saying.
Insult comedy, of the kind Don Rickles made famous, is passé––no matter who does it. Also, presidents doing comedy was less risky when the audience was small. Nowadays, however, such fare doesn't necessarily play well around the globe via the Internet.
The Correspondents' Association should scrub the event, while making clear that it's not a commentary about Donald Trump. Rather, it's a recognition that times and priorities have changed.
Being a president, and being a journalist––least in this era––are not laughing matters.
(c) Peter Funt. Distributed by Cagle syndicate.