Press: My exclusive dinner with Kim Kardashian
If you weren’t there, too bad you missed all the excitement at the White House Correspondents Dinner: the one moment that brought the audience to its feet in a gush of pure, unleashed frenzy.
It wasn’t the moving memorial to journalists killed in Ukraine. Nor the powerful tribute to legendary Black female White House journalists Alice Dunnigan and Ethel Payne. Nor the cutting, take-no-prisoners, comedic fusillade of Trevor Noah. Not even the perfect-pitch, self-deprecating, yet inspiring remarks of commander-in-chief Joe Biden. No, the moment that stole the show was the perfectly-timed arrival of Hollywood celebrity Kim Kardashian.
The diva du jour waited until 45 minutes into the dinner, when all 2,600 guests were well into their salads, to make her dramatic appearance at the top of the stairs leading down into the ballroom, holding hands with Pete Davidson and surrounded by five security men. As they stopped in their tracks, gazing out at the crowd and trying to figure out how to navigate their way to her table, bedlam ensued.
I was sitting less than 100 feet away. Suddenly, that entire end of the audience was on its feet, rushing to the stairs, cellphones high in the air, pushing and shoving each other to get a photo of the starlet. It reminded me of the crowd I’d recently seen in St. Peter’s Square, trying to get a photo of the Pope. Except this crowd was dressed in black-tie and evening gowns.
Kardashian’s security team finally gave up, escorted her around the upper perimeter of the ballroom and then down to her seat with ABC News, dutifully followed every step of the way by network TV cameras. It was a monumental embarrassment to everyone in the room — especially to the young journalism students who had just received scholarships from the White House Correspondents Association and suddenly saw the professional journalists they aspired to join someday acting like a teen-age fan mob.
In his remarks, President Biden jokingly asked: “Why the hell are we still doing this?” But later he gave the right answer: Because we should. Because, at least once a year, it’s important for journalists and the people they cover in Congress and the White House to set their differences aside and celebrate the First Amendment — a tradition started in Washington in 1924 under President Calvin Coolidge.
The question Biden should have asked is: “Why the hell are you still inviting Hollywood celebrities?” Let’s be honest. Kim Kardashian had no business being at the White House Correspondents Dinner. None. Zero. And neither did any of the other Hollywood celebrities who flew all the way across the country just for the dubious thrill of walking yet another red carpet and getting their name in print, which Washington gossip columnists are only too happy to oblige.
These celebrities have nothing to do with journalism. They don’t belong at the White House Correspondents Dinner, any more than they belong at a reunion of NASA astronauts. They serve no purpose at the dinner, other than taking seats that should have gone to working reporters, too many of whom are not invited because celebrities get top priority.
The White House Correspondents Association, of which I’m a proud member, did something very smart this year: requiring that every dinner guest show proof of vaccination and a same-day negative COVID-19 test. Next year, let’s add a new requirement: showing proof of some connection to journalism.
We made the correspondents dinner COVID -free. Now let’s get our self-respect back — by making it celebrity-free.
Press is host of “The Bill Press Pod.” He is the author of “From the Left: A Life in the Crossfire.”
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