The 2019 White House correspondents' dinner focused more on history and press freedom than celebrities and comedy as President TrumpDonald John TrumpUS-Saudi Arabia policy needs a dose of 'realpolitik' Trump talks to Swedish leader about rapper A$AP Rocky, offers to vouch for his bail Matt Gaetz ahead of Mueller hearing: 'We are going to reelect the president' MORE skipped the dinner for the third consecutive year for a campaign rally in Wisconsin.

The usually star-studded evening was more subdued than in previous years. Last year, which also didn’t see a strong showing from Hollywood, stars such as Kathy Griffin and Rob Reiner were spotted at the Washington Hilton. This year, one notable guest was Kelleth Cuthbert, known on social media as the "Fiji Water girl" photobomber, whose snapshots at the Golden Globes went viral earlier this year.

The keynote address was delivered by acclaimed historian Ron Chernow, whose biography "Alexander Hamilton," about the first U.S. Treasury secretary, was the historical basis for the acclaimed Broadway musical "Hamilton."


Chernow’s speech on historical admiration and tension between presidents and the press mixed in a few jokes and examined notable media moments between figures such as former Presidents Washington, Reagan and Nixon.

"The relationship between the president and the press has almost always been difficult, almost always adversarial but doesn’t have to be steeped in venom," he said.

A comedian usually headlines the event, but after entertainer Michelle Wolf made edgy remarks last year, the White House Correspondents’ Association (WHCA) opted for a less controversial speaker.

Ahead of the event, WHCA President Olivier Knox said he wanted to put the focus of the event back on journalism.

"When I ran for the job in early 2016, I told folks that I felt the dinner needed a reset, to be more serious, to put the focus back on journalism, on the job of chronicling a presidency and holding it to account," he said. "I’ve kept that campaign promise."

"It’s just we reached a point where you were more likely to run into a sitcom star than a sound engineer — and that’s a shame," he added.

While the annual dinner proceeded, Trump and White House press secretary Sarah HuckabeeSarah Elizabeth SandersBiden pledges return to daily press briefings as president Sarah Sanders: I will walk out of the White House 'with my head held high' Trump directs Pentagon to develop policy allowing service academy athletes to go pro right away MORE Sanders were instead campaigning for Trump’s reelection at a rally, where Trump framed the media and political elite as out of touch with ordinary Americans.

“There’s no place I’d rather be than right here in America’s heartland,” Trump told an arena filled with his supporters in Green Bay, Wis. "And there’s no one I’d rather be with than you, the hardworking patriots who make our country run so well."

While Trump pressured administration officials not to attend the dinner, some conservatives did. Two men wore red and blue "USA" hats with the number "45" emblazoned on the side in support of the president, and Rep. Matt GaetzMatthew (Matt) GaetzMatt Gaetz ahead of Mueller hearing: 'We are going to reelect the president' Matt Gaetz hints prosecutor won't press charges against threatening caller for political reasons Hillicon Valley: Twitter says Trump 'go back' tweet didn't violate rules | Unions back protests targeting Amazon 'Prime Day' | Mnuchin voices 'serious concerns' about Facebook crypto project | Congress mobilizes on cyber threats to electric grid MORE (R-Fla.), a Trump ally, was spotted wearing a bright-red pair of crocodile shoes.

The weekend was also marked by a series of parties mostly put on by news outlets. A Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerTop Republican considered Mueller subpoena to box in Democrats Kamala Harris says her Justice Dept would have 'no choice' but to prosecute Trump for obstruction Dem committees win new powers to investigate Trump MORE lookalike attended one pre-party at the Washington Hilton. As soon as the Mueller doppelgänger walked in, a pair of reporters audibly gasped before realizing it wasn’t the special counsel after all.