Tom Brokaw sat out the last White House Correspondents Association Dinner, and he plans to do it again in 2013. The veteran newsman says the increasing tabloid level go the invited guests is what ruined it for him. “For me the breaking point was Lindsay Lohan,” Brokaw tells Politico. “She became a big star at the White House Correspondents Dinner. Give me a break.”
The former “NBC Nightly News” anchor says the annual dinner must leave home viewers wondering, “‘That’s the Washington press corps?’ I mean, there was more dignity at my daughter’s junior prom than there is, what I’m seeing on C-SPAN here.”
Brokaw, a charter member of the Association, famously criticized the increasing spectacle of the dinner during a roundtable on “Meet the Press” in May 2012. He says the reason he felt the need to speak up is a concern for how the Beltway press is viewed.
“What kind of an image do we present to the rest of the country? Are we doing their business, or are we just a bunch of narcissists who are mostly interested in elevating our own profiles,” Brokaw asks. “And what comes through the screen on C-SPAN that night is the latter and not the former.”
Fox News correspondent Ed Henry is the president of the White House Correspondents Association. He defends the dinner for the charity and scholarship money it raises, and tells Politio, “Last time I checked it’s a free country, so individual news organizations can invite whomever they choose.”
Brokaw acknowledges the argument, saying, “Look, I don’t believe in just eating your spinach. I want to have a good time, too … What I would do is take a hard look at it and find ways to temper the more outrageous qualities of it. Why do we think to have a successful evening, you have to have Donald Trump as your guest of honor, for example, or Lindsay Lohan?”
Brokaw recalls the year he took author and automobile magnate Lee Iacocca as his guest to the dinner, he ended the night embarrassed by all the drunk reporters asking for autographs.
Conan O’Brien will host this year’s White House Correspondents’ Dinner, April 27.