For the first time in recent memory, the White House Correspondents Dinner did not have a comedian emcee its annual dinner. Instead, the president of the White House Correspondents Association, Olivier Knox, delivered a solemn address to open up the usually jubilant evening.
Knox focused his remarks on the threat he said the White House is putting journalists under.
“I don’t want to dwell on the president,” Knox said while discussing President Trump. “This is not his dinner. It’s ours, and it should stay ours. But I do want to say this. In nearly 23 years as a reporter I’ve been physically assaulted by Republicans and Democrats, spat on, shoved, had crap thrown at me. I’ve been told I will never work in Washington again by both major parties.”
“And yet I still separate my career to before February 2017 and what came after,” Knox continued. “And February 2017 is when the president called us the enemy of the people. A few days later my son asked me, ‘Is Donald Trump going to put you in prison?” At the end of a family trip to Mexico he mused if the president tried to keep me out of the country, at least Uncle Josh is a good lawyer and will get you home.”
Journalists in the Trump era are under physical threat, Knox said somberly.
“I’ve had to tell my family not to touch packages on our stoop,” he told the crowd. “My name is on a statement criticizing the president for celebrating a congressman’s criminal assault on a reporter. I’ve had death threats, including one this week. Too many of us have. It shouldn’t need to be said in a room full of people who understand the power of words but fake news and enemies of the people are not punch lines, pet names or presidential. And we should reject politically expedient assaults on the men and women whose hard work makes it possible to hold the powerful to account."