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Alec Jacobs

Politico Goes Glossy for WHCD

Politico put out a glossy edition this weekend in celebration of the WHCD. In case you haven’t picked up your copy, here’s what you’re missing:

  • An interview with Seth Meyers. He says doing the dinner, a notoriously tough gig especially with President Obama, who has a reputation for being funny, is a service to his country.
  • Political jokes solicited from other comedians, including Paula Poundstone, Bill Maher and Aisha Tyler
  • Comedy pointers for POTUS
  • Short profiles of the WHCA board members
  • A guide to the weekend parties
  • and, of course, a primer on the food

A Contrarian’s Point of View on WHCD

In an editorial today, WaPo columnist Dana Milbank agrees with Ezra Klein: that the paper inviting Donald Trump was a mistake. Or, at the very least, awkward.

On Thursday, the Washington Post editorializes that Donald Trump has been campaigning on “bogus” issues and that he should “cease and desist.” An article in the news pages the same day reports that the great orange charlatan’s “simply wild speculation” has “almost no basis in fact.”

Then, on Saturday night, Post reporters and editors, in black-tie finest, go to the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner to host their invited guests, including. . . Donald Trump.

But that isn’t his only problem with the WHCD. Far from it. The week or so of parties turns journalists into “pimps,” tasked with recruiting Hollywood celebrities, politicians, and business executives to come to the dinner as guests.

Milbank writes of a time, long ago, when the dinner was a “minor annoyance” with mainly journalists and obscure celebs. “Now, awash in lobbyist and corporate money, it is another display of Washington’s excesses.” Among the gaggle of parties, non-profits “hold cocktail parties masquerading as charity benefits.” He calls the whole thing “icky” before closing:

As I began to do the RSVPs for a few of this year’s parties, I thought about what our hardbitten journalistic forebears would make of Cee Lo and SamRo and the Donald. Then I made other plans for the weekend.

Would “our hardbitten journalistic forebears” really be upset with journalists dancing to Cee Lo at a party?  Doesn’t look like we’re going to find out anytime soon.

HuffPost to Celebrate One Million Twitter Followers with Prizes

In anticipation of HuffPost‘s millionth Twitter follower, the site’s social media editor, Rob Fishman, gives a brief history today of HuffPost‘s time on the network.

But, oh boy, get ready for when they reach a million. Because there will be prizes. And they will be fabulous. (Well, one of the prizes is fabulous. The others are mediocre.)

The one millionth follower, along with two other lucky tweeters chosen from HuffPost‘s following, will receive a brand spanking new iPad 2. Obviously, HuffPost took this idea from me:

Meanwhile, ten winners who use the hashtag #HuffPost1M will get retweeted and 15 more will get a #FollowFriday shootout.

Good luck and Godspeed.

The Divas of WHCDs Past

The WHCD has a reputation for being all glitter and glam. But a behind-the-scenes examination reveals not everything goes off as seamlessly as we think.

NJ recently interviewed the White House Correspondents’ Association’s executive director, Julia Whiston. She sheds some light on the biggest divas she’s worked with in the nearly 20 years that she’s been in charge of the dinner, since her first year in 1993.

Ray Charles, for example, wouldn’t play his version of “America the Beautiful” without an additional $250,000, a payment Whiston refused. And Aretha Franklin almost refused to go on stage because the room was air conditioned. She ultimately performed, with the air conditioning on.

The easiest to work with? Last year’s comedian, Jay Leno: “He comes into town. He decides to walk down Connecticut Avenue and look for McDonald’s for lunch. He is gracious with everybody that he sees who works at the hotel.”

Read more of the interview here.

Separated at Birth: The Royal Wedding Edition

In this installment, we have English “socialite” and royal wedding guest Tara Palmer-Tomkinson in an absurd hat. She’s paired with an alien from the 1997 movie, “The Fifth Element.” The character is named simply The Diva. Fitting.

(h/t Washington Examiner‘s Eddie Scarry.)

Guess Who’ll Be Writing for Bloomberg’s Editorial Section?

HuffPost‘s Michael Calderone is reporting that none other than famed WaPo columnist Ezra Klein (looking rather muscular here) will regularly contribute editorials to Bloomberg View. He joins a roster that includes Jonathan Alter of Newsweek, former OMB director Peter Orszag, The Atlantic‘s Jeffrey Goldberg, and Bloomberg‘s Margaret Carlson and Al Hunt.

Not to worry, Klein will keep his job at WaPo, as will Goldberg at the Atlantic.

Read more about the new section here.

Politico’s Celeb Breakfast Brings Out Funny Barbs

Politico‘s Mike Allen and Patrick Gavin hosted their first celebrity edition of the Playbook Breakfast this morning with actors Tim Daly and Rosario Dawson and “Top Chef” finalist Mike Isabella.

And it started off a little dicey.

Editor-in-chief John Harris opened the breakfast by welcoming guests and briefly mentioned tomorrow’s WHCD, “or prom for nerds, as we described it in Politico today.” The phrase has been used for years prior to this morning.

Daly also had a problem with Harris’ introduction. He was introduced as the star of “Wings,” a sitcom that ended in 1997. Wings was “like, 20 years ago…It’s ‘Private Practice.’ It was on last night, maybe some of you saw it?” Daly joked.

Daly is in town with a crowd of celebs to promote The Creative Coalition and to lobby Congress for arts funding, especially difficult in a political climate that’s embracing budget cuts. Daly said that many people think of “the arts” as New York City operas, and ignore other things like architecture and clothing. “Like Patrick’s shoes, his socks!” Allen said. Gavin was wearing bright colored sneakers and pink argyle-y socks. “His socks especially,” Daly responded.

Allen asked where Daly gets his news, and the actor took the opportunity to rib Sarah Palin, saying “I read all of ‘em. All the papers.” On the subject of the WHCD, Daly admitted he was most looking forward to seeing “somebody I respect embarrass themselves horribly.”

Next, Rosario Dawson took the stage with Maria Teresa Kumar to talk about their organization, Voto Latino, which aims to get Latinos voting and bring issues the community cares about to the forefront. Dawson described meeting the president: “He just kinda walked in…he looked great.” But she said she’s still looking forward to meeting someone else. “I’ve never met Joe Biden,” she said, adding “Vice President Joe Biden” to clarify.

Dawson spoke of her role in the organization, and said her history of activism helps her make her case to politicians. She hopes she isn’t just seen as a celebrity, but as a representative from Voto Latino. “I’ve been walking in marches since Al Sharpton still wore track suits,” she boasted.

Dogs Can Have WHCD Parties, Too

A Bo Obama lookalike

A Bo Obama lookalike

Last night, on the patio of Art and Soul on Capitol Hill, hosted its second annual White House Pet Correspondents’ Benefit. The dogs were generally well-behaved, though there was some growling, barking and butt-sniffing. How very Washington.

Wendy Diamond, the proprietor of AnimalFair, played host to raise money for Pets2Vets, which pairs returning veterans with adopted dogs. She was joined by her dog, Lucky, whom she calls the White House pet correspondent. The resident White House dog, Bo Obama, was not in attendance. He wasn’t even invited, though Diamond insisted his presence would have been welcome.

Pets2Vets, or P2V, was founded by David Sharpe in early 2010. Sharpe described suffering from PTSD, traumatic brain injury, and depression upon his return from tours of duty in Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. But when he adopted a rescue dog, a three-month-old pitbull mix named Cheyenne, the feelings of depression subsided. It led him to found P2V, which he describes as “a between a sheltered pet and a veteran.” Pets offer “unconditional, pure love” and Sharpe says that veterans, who often feel judged opening up to doctors about their feelings, don’t feel the same way with animals. He said the program helps both the veterans who “just want companionship” and the dogs, which come from abusive homes.

The small crowd of human guests enjoyed hors d’oeuvres from Art and Soul, including mushroom puffs and fried mac and cheese, along with a wine bar. The canine guests, all under 21, were instead served water. They munched on treats and bones.

Attendees were also treated to cupcakes from Georgetown Cupcake, decked out in red, white and blue. The owners of the store and the stars of TLC’s “D.C. Cupcakes,” Sophie LaMontagne and Katherine Kallinis, made an appearance at the event, though they’ll be heading to New York today for an appearance on “The View”‘s royal wedding special.

The McLaughlin Group’s John McLaughlin, Daily Caller editor-in-chief Tucker Carlson, WUSA’s Angie Goff, and Buzz Aldrin all serve on the host committee. None were able to attend.

PBS’s Gwen Ifill: ‘Jon Stewart Watches Me’

Gwen Ifill of PBS’ “Newshour” was in Los Angeles Tuesday with Political Editor David Chalian to accept the Walter Cronkite Award for Political Coverage from USC’s prestigious Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism.

The station was selected by a panel of judges for “through and balanced” political coverage. Ifill and Judy Woodruff were singled out for “focusing on the issues” and avoiding “the horserace component that is so typical in political coverage.” Four pieces in particular, produced by Mary Jo Brooks, Terence Burlij, and Sarah Clune, received awards.

She began her remarks:

It does us all good to see that – no matter what you read, see and hear out there – serious journalism still matters. It’s all I ever wanted to do, and I think I speak for everyone here in saying that we are drawn to journalism for the nobility that can be found in telling untold stories, or in shedding light rather than heat on the over-told ones.

Ifill also set aside time to brag. “When I visit college campuses, students often tell me, ‘I only watch Jon Stewart.’ And I tell them: ‘Jon Stewart watches me.’” She added that Cronkite told her he watched “Newshour” every night.

“If it sounds like I’m boasting, you’re right,” she said. “We are justifiably proud of what we do.”

Alex Pareene Apparently a Bigot For Wanting to End Bullying

In an odd post earlier this week, right-wing blogger and former TWT editor Robert Stacy McCain accused Salon‘s Alex Pareene of being a bigot based on a piece Pareene wrote expressly admonishing bigotry.

In response to a Tennessee state legislator who wants to ban public elementary and junior high schools from addressing homosexuality, Pareene wrote that supporters of the bill are “numskulls and bigots.” In state legislatures, he said, “where the national press seldom ventures…these morons are basically able to pass any fool idea.”

McCain didn’t like this. He called the article an audition for a “front-page gig at DailyKos” and said he understands that “Pareene hates him some Republicans. And loves him some gayness.” He also took issue with the Salon story’s last graph, where Pareene jokingly wondered, “Why a man named Stacey [note: the Tennessee legislator's first name is weirdly also Stacey] would want to make it more difficult to help children who are victims of homophobic bullying.” McCain said he had been “gay-baited.”

Conclusions: So, Pareene doesn’t want to ban talking about homosexuality in public schools, criticizes those who do, and is a “bigot” for doing so. McCain, meanwhile, advocates for the re-institution of “corporal punishment” in the form of paddling to stop bullying. Sounds like Stacy might need that paddling.