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UTA’s D.C. Bash Will Reflect Era of Trump, Even if He’s a Correspondents Dinner No Show

Jay Sures
Kelly Taub/BFA/REX/Shutterstock

WASHINGTON — The party scene surrounding this year’s White House Correspondents Association dinner is a tad scaled back from the Obama era, but that didn’t matter to United Talent Agency.

For the third year in a row, it is hosting one of the most-anticipated pre-parties, the Celebration of America’s Journalists at Georgetown eatery Fiola Mare, with Mediaite as co-host.

Jay Sures, the co-president of UTA, says that “we are seeing that the intersection between politics, entertainment, and news is stronger than ever before, and we want to be at the center of that.”

UTA represents journalists such as Jake Tapper, Chuck Todd and Don Lemon. The agency bolstered its broadcast and news division in 2014 with the acquisition of N.S. Bienstock, with clients such as Anderson Cooper and Robin Roberts, and more recently acquired speakers agency Greater Talent Network.

The UTA party usually draws a mix of news personalities and politicos — Mark Warner and Sheldon Whitehouse attended last year, along with Hollywood figures like Billy Bob Thornton. Sures recalls Lemon and Fox News’ Brian Kilmeade in conversation last year.

The dinner on Saturday will once again not feature President Donald Trump. He’s decided to skip the event, as he did last year, but Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders will sit at the head table. Michelle Wolf (another UTA client) will be the featured entertainer. Like last year, the event is expected to be much more focused on press freedom and access, rather than the stars who showed up.

“I strongly feel that the protection of the First Amendment, now more than ever, is incredibly important,” Sures says.

He says that among clients, “the number one concern among those who cover the news is that in some instances they are regarded as ‘fake.’ I don’t know of one person who I represent who wakes up in the morning and says, ‘I want to put out fake news.’ They are so hypersensitive about getting it right.”

He adds, “When someone has a big following and a loud voice and puts it out there that it is ‘fake news,’ that is the biggest challenge that [news clients] try to overcome.”

He also said that another concern among higher-profile clients is security. Where once that has been an issue largely when they were doing live shoots, now it is a concern in their everyday lives. “With the number of threats they get on a daily basis, security is a concern,” he says.

He says that representation of news personalities is “not that different from representing a showrunner, or representing an actor or a big director. They go to work every day and want to do their best work and be compensated fairly.”

Sures has been active in fundraising for Democratic candidates as they trek to Los Angeles — something that has only accelerated this cycle. He is backing Gavin Newsom in California’s gubernatorial race, but says that the sheer number of contenders “flooding L.A.” has created “something I call donor fatigue.” “You get hit up from so many different people it is exhausting.”

But, he adds, “there is something to make donor fatigue go away pretty quickly. If Mueller comes down with an indictment and the ‘s’ hits the wall, we could see a resurgence of donor giving.”

Those are his personal views, but he’s reticent to reveal his predictions of what we’ll see in the midterms and the 2020 election.

News clients, he says, “have been loath to give a definitive answer because this has been such an untraditional presidency, that anything can happen and anything goes.” The news cycle seems to have accelerated to the point where the news that would have been spread out over the span of three weeks now is coming in a day — jammed into the “opening teaser.”

“So many journalists have been concerned about making predictions, because they would have been so wrong about making predictions of what has happened in the last year and a half,” he says. “They can’t believe it.”