The 2019 White House correspondents' dinner focused more on history and press freedom than celebrities and comedy as President TrumpDonald John TrumpPennsylvania Supreme Court strikes down GOP bid to stop election certification Biden looks to career officials to restore trust, morale in government agencies Sunday shows preview: US health officials brace for post-holiday COVID-19 surge 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 SandersSarah Sanders on Trump's reported war dead criticism: 'Those comments didn't happen' Sarah Sanders memoir reportedly says Trump joked she should hook up with Kim Jong Un McEnany stamps her brand on White House press operation 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) GaetzGaetz: Trump 'should pardon everyone' including himself to quash liberal 'bloodlust' Florida passes 850k coronavirus cases Florida GOP Rep. Mike Waltz tests positive for COVID-19 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) MuellerCNN's Toobin warns McCabe is in 'perilous condition' with emboldened Trump CNN anchor rips Trump over Stone while evoking Clinton-Lynch tarmac meeting The Hill's 12:30 Report: New Hampshire fallout 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.