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In Trump's absence, 'nerd prom' challenged by Bee's bash

Associated Press logo Associated Press 4/29/2017 By JACK GILLUM, Associated Press
In this combination photo, Hasan Minhaj attends the 75th Annual Peabody Awards Ceremony on May 21, 2016, in New York, left, and Samantha Bee attends the IWC Schaffhausen Tribeca Film Festival event on April 20, 2017, in New York. On Saturday, April 29, Minhaj will host the annual White House Correspondents' Dinner in Washington while Bee will be hosting the "Not the White House Correspondents’ Dinner" in Washington. (Photo by Evan Agostini, left, and Charles Sykes/Invision/AP, File) © The Associated Press In this combination photo, Hasan Minhaj attends the 75th Annual Peabody Awards Ceremony on May 21, 2016, in New York, left, and Samantha Bee attends the IWC Schaffhausen Tribeca Film Festival event on April 20, 2017, in New York. On Saturday, April 29, Minhaj will host the annual White House Correspondents' Dinner in Washington while Bee will be hosting the "Not the White House Correspondents’ Dinner" in Washington. (Photo by Evan Agostini, left, and Charles Sykes/Invision/AP, File)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Washington's once-glitzy "nerd prom" is about to get overshadowed.

FILE - In this April 30, 2016 file photo, President Barack Obama speaks at the annual White House Correspondents' Association dinner at the Washington Hilton in Washington. The annual White House Correspondents' Association dinner — traditionally the most-glittery night on the Washington social calendar, where A-list celebrities sprinkle their stardust as coveted guests of media organizations — will have a different vibe this year. So as opposed to last year, when guests at President Barack Obama's final dinner included Watson, Washington and Helen Mirren, this year's big stars seem to be Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein.(AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File) © The Associated Press FILE - In this April 30, 2016 file photo, President Barack Obama speaks at the annual White House Correspondents' Association dinner at the Washington Hilton in Washington. The annual White House Correspondents' Association dinner — traditionally the most-glittery night on the Washington social calendar, where A-list celebrities sprinkle their stardust as coveted guests of media organizations — will have a different vibe this year. So as opposed to last year, when guests at President Barack Obama's final dinner included Watson, Washington and Helen Mirren, this year's big stars seem to be Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein.(AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)

Late-night TV star Samantha Bee was pulling in celebrities for the first "Not the White House Correspondents' Dinner" on Saturday — a tongue-in-cheek play on the real bash, where journalists, the president and, in recent years, lots of bold-face names have mingled.

FILE - In this combination photo, actresses Helen Mirren, from left, Kerry Washington and Emma Watson appear at the White House Correspondents' Association Dinner in Washington on April 30, 2016. The annual White House Correspondents' Association dinner — traditionally the most-glittery night on the Washington social calendar, where A-list celebrities sprinkle their stardust as coveted guests of media organizations — will have a different vibe this year. So as opposed to last year, when guests at President Barack Obama's final dinner included Watson, Washington and Helen Mirren, this year's big stars seem to be Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP, File) © The Associated Press FILE - In this combination photo, actresses Helen Mirren, from left, Kerry Washington and Emma Watson appear at the White House Correspondents' Association Dinner in Washington on April 30, 2016. The annual White House Correspondents' Association dinner — traditionally the most-glittery night on the Washington social calendar, where A-list celebrities sprinkle their stardust as coveted guests of media organizations — will have a different vibe this year. So as opposed to last year, when guests at President Barack Obama's final dinner included Watson, Washington and Helen Mirren, this year's big stars seem to be Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP, File)

But President Donald Trump was skipping the White House Correspondents' Association gala, instead marking his 100th day in office with a rally in Pennsylvania. No president had declined an invitation since Ronald Reagan in 1981, and he was recovering from an assassination attempt. Still, Reagan phoned in some friendly, humorous remarks.

WHCA dinner organizers wanted to put the focus on the First Amendment and the role of the press in democracy. The scheduled headliners were Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, set to present journalism awards. Woodward told The Washington Post the two planned to speak about "the First Amendment and the importance of aggressive but fair reporting."

Look for the celebrities at Bee's event: TV stars such as Alysia Reiner of "Orange Is The New Black," Retta of "Parks and Recreation" and Matt Walsh of "Veep" were expected at her after-party.

The correspondents' group, as usual, booked a master of ceremonies: Hasan Minhaj of "The Daily Show." Broadcast coverage was to begin at 9:30 p.m. on C-SPAN, followed by Bee's event airing on TBS at 10 p.m.

Jeff Mason, the WHCA president, said this year would have been different even if Trump had attended, "based on the tension that has existed in the relationship and some of the things he has said about the press. We were preparing for a different dinner either way."

Trump has called the media "fake" and "dishonest" and even "the enemy of the people." In an emailed fundraising appeal before leaving for Pennsylvania, Trump cited among the accomplishment over his first 100 days, "We fought back against the media's lies."

Mason promised that Minhaj would use his comedy chops, without "roasting the president in absentia."

"People don't want to come to a dinner and feel bored or preached at. Hopefully neither of those things will happen," Mason said.

Bee, who hosts TBS' "Full Frontal" weekly show, said she planned to focus on celebrating the press.

"We're intending our show to really focus on honoring the press for all of the work that we vampire from them, all the hard work that people do that go into making a show like ours possible," she told The Associated Press this past week.

The dinner began in 1921, and last year, for President Barack Obama's final appearance, the crowd included Will Smith, Emma Watson, Kerry Washington, Helen Mirren and model Kendall Jenner.

Most people trace the development of the celebrity guests to 1987, when then-Baltimore Sun reporter Michael Kelly brought Fawn Hall, the secretary in the center of the Iran-Contra affair.

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Associated Press writer Jocelyn Noveck contributed to this report.

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