As a decadent Beltway establishment RINO in good standing, I have to say: I don't really have a problem with the White House Correspondents Dinner as a concept. People who unironically call it "Nerd Prom" should be killed, but the event itself … is kind of fun! Yes, it's gotten out of hand in recent years, as Hollywood has flooded the zone and news orgs try to one up each other by leveraging their synergy with their corporate parents and their advertisers to bring A- or B-Plus-List celebs to hobnob with ad-buyers and high-level editors who haven't actually performed an interview in years. Still. The parties beforehand, the parties after, mingling with people you would otherwise never get a chance to mingle with, hearing the president tell a few jokes. Good times!
However. Treating this evening as if it's something the rest of the country should care about is, at best, tone deaf. Does anyone really care if the president tells a joke to a room filled with journalists who wish they were pretty enough to be celebrities and celebrities who wish they were smart enough to hold forth on the political issues of the day? Of course not. D.C. resembles Panem no more than it does on this weekend.
Which brings me to last night, when CNN was providing red carpet coverage (!) and interviewing president Obama's joke writers and former body men while Baltimore—a city that's about a half-hour away from D.C., sans traffic—burned. Now, cable news has long been far from your best bet when it comes to breaking news on the weekend: they load up the schedules with pre-taped crap to fill dead air time. But last night's efforts were especially galling. Because as Baltimore tore itself apart following protests against police violence, CNN was covering the the WHCD and MSNBC was covering the WHCD and Fox was showing some already-taped crap. Those of us who saw, say, this:
— Sonny Bunch (@SonnyBunch) April 26, 2015
And turned on CNN to see what was going on were treated to, well, this:
Thanks to Jesse Walker for highlighting this clip. Because it's amazing. If you don't want to watch, it's easy to explain: It's a CNN host telling the audience to go f—k itself if they want to get news about riots in Baltimore, that they can check out local news reports or hop on Twitter to find out what was going on or wait until the morning. They were going to stick on "most powerful man in the world" who was going to tell some (awful) jokes.
The problem, of course, is that anyone with the capability of changing the program at CNN was, in all likelihood, at the dinner itself. As was much of the on-air talent, I'm sure. But the decision is galling nonetheless. And it's a perfect example of why the rest of the country is so sick of Washington, so hateful toward the press corps. Nobody outside the Beltway gives a good goddamn about our homeless man's Oscars. Why should they? And if they do, they can watch the damn thing on CSPAN! You know what they can't do on CSPAN? Watch breaking news from a city tearing itself apart, a city so fearful for its people that it's locking them inside a baseball stadium while "outside agitators"* incite chaos.
But hey. Don't want to cut away from "nerd prom." That would be a real tragedy.
*It's always "outside agitators" who start trouble at these "peaceful" protests. As if the outside agitators are modern-day Tom Joads, going wherever little children are hungry and cry to acquire food for them by relieving locally owned businesses of their goods for redistribution.