Louis C.K. and the peril of Washington media dinners


Louis C.K. (Eric Leibowitz/FX)

While offering no explanation for his pullout from the Radio & Television Correspondents’ Association dinner on June 8 (the comic simply “just didn’t want to do it anymore,” his rep told CNN), he dodged a Limbaughesque firestorm in the making: Van Susteren on her blog Thursday had called C.K. a “pig” for his “filthy language about women” — Sarah Palin in particular. “I think the organization that hired him” — the RTCA — “is just as bad as he is,” she wrote.


Greta Van Susteren (Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP)

The appearance of insider coziness at these affairs — reporters hobnobbing with politicians — may be the least of the pitfalls.

There’s a good cause behind most of these dinners, like raising money for scholarships. But in the push to sell tickets, hosts try to build buzz by hiring the hippest performers — who aren’t always the most comfortable dais neighbors for the president of the United States.


Colbert at the 2006 White House Correspondents’ Association dinner. (Roger L. Wollenberg/Getty Images)

And as media organizations compete to invite the hottest celebrities to sit at their tables, the stars leverage the events for their own PR — witness Sheryl Crow’s 2007 WHCA confrontation with Karl Rove over global warming, a sideshow that prompted the New York Times to stop attending these events.


Bill Clinton enduring Don Imus’s routine at the 1996 RTCA dinner.

Who’ll take his place? No word yet, but dinner chairman Jay McMichael vowed in an email to put on a “great evening. . . with plenty of surprises.”



This story, appearing in print Monday, March 12, contains elements of a Web-only story from Friday, March 9.

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