Skip Navigation

Close and don't show again.

Your browser is out of date.

You may not get the full experience here on National Journal.

Please upgrade your browser to any of the following supported browsers:

White House Correspondents' Dinner: 25 Memorable Moments White House Correspondents' Dinner: 25 Memorable Moments

NEXT :
This ad will end in seconds
 
Close X

Not a member? Learn More »

Forget Your Password?

Don't have an account? Register »

Reveal Navigation
 

 

Homepage

white house

White House Correspondents' Dinner: 25 Memorable Moments

Since its inception in 1921, the White House Correspondents' Association Dinner has provided a snapshot into the current state of affairs in both the media and the presidency. As this year's dinner approaches, we're taking a look back at those defining moments, whether they be groundbreaking or uncomfortable.

1924: Calvin Coolidge becomes the first president to attend the White House Correspondents' Association Dinner. The dinner was held in the Old Arlington Hotel and 50 people attended.

 

1930: The dinner is canceled when Chief Justice William Howard Taft, a former president himself, dies on the day of the event, March 8.

1941: President Franklin D. Roosevelt delivers the most important speech ever given at the dinner, calling for a commitment to fight the Axis powers. FDR explained his reasoning for using this occasion: "It differs from the press conferences that you and I hold twice a week, for you cannot ask me any questions tonight, and everything that I have to say is word for word on the record."

1942: One year after FDR's speech, the dinner is canceled for World War II. The next year, the dinner would be rationed and the president would have to buy his own ticket to attend.

 

1946: Attire returns to black-tie and food is no longer rationed.

1950: To protest the dinner's exclusion of women, Navy Undersecretary Dan Kimball hosts a separate dinner for the "underprivileged ladies" of the WHCA. 

1951: President Truman asks the WHCA to cancel the dinner because of the "uncertainty of the world situation."

1954: Irving Berlin unveils an original song, "I Still Like Ike," to honor President Eisenhower.

 

1955: Dinner tops 1,000 for the first time.

1959: Dinner moved from spring to October to coincide with Eisenhower's birthday.

1961: UPI's Helen Thomas protests the exclusion of women; dinner tops 1,500.

DON'T MISS TODAY'S TOP STORIES
Sign up form for the newsletter

1962: Under pressure from President Kennedy, the WHCA permits women to attend dinner.

1963: A rising star makes one of her first big performances: 21-year-old Barbra Streisand.

1964: The entertainment bar is raised: performances by Duke Ellington, the Smothers Brothers, and acrobats.

1972: First lady Pat Nixon stands in for the absent president.

1975: Former feminist protester Helen Thomas become first female president of the WHCA. In her honor, Danny Thomas is asked to perform. Much to the audience's discomfort, his act is identical to his sexist routine in Las Vegas.

1978: President Carter misses the dinner, marking the first time in the modern era the first lady, the vice president, and the president are all absent.

1981: President Reagan calls in to address the guests from Camp David, where he was recuperating from his assassination attempt. Rita Jenrette, the ex-wife of ex-Rep. John Jenrette who posed for Playboy, becomes the first scandalous woman to turn heads at the event.

1983: Comedian Mark Russell headlines, marking the beginning of the single acts in lieu of a variety show.

1987: Michael Kelly of the Baltimore Sun invites Iran-Contra celeb Fawn Hall, triggering the trend of attention-getting celebrity guests.

1990: Robert Ellison of Sheridan Broadcasting becomes president of the WHCA, the first -- and so far only -- African American to head the organization. Donald Trump's mistress Marla Maples continues the tradition of scandalous women, attending the dinner shortly after Donald and Ivana's marriage broke up.

1993: The dinner sells out for the first time, topping 2,500.

1999: The Clintons arrive late, conveniently missing the awards ceremony at which Newsweek reporter Michael Isikoff's coverage of the Monica Lewinsky scandal was honored.

2006: Stephen Colbert gives a controversial performance, lambasting President George W. Bush and receiving a subdued response from the crowd (see video below.)

2010: Head-turners Kim Kardashian, the Jonas Brothers, and Levi Johnston (invited by Kathy Griffin) attract attention - -and a few jokes from the president. Obama said of the teen heart throb brothers' band, "Sasha and Malia are huge fans, but boys, don't get any ideas. Two words for you: predator drones. You will never see it coming. You think I'm joking?" 

From Clinton to Obama, Laughs from the WHCA Dinner

George E. Condon Jr. contributed contributed to this article.

DON'T MISS TODAY'S TOP STORIES

Sign up form for the newsletter
Comments
comments powered by Disqus
 
MORE FROM NATIONAL JOURNAL