Washington: US President Donald Trump, for a third year in a row, did not attend the annual White House Correspondents' Dinner and instead held a rally in Wisconsin.
A small number of Trump aides, including counsellor to the President Kellyanne Conway, did attend some of the social events that took place before Saturday night's dinner, CNN reported.
Conway, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and comedian Jay Leno all posed for photos at a Saturday morning garden brunch that sought to raise money for veterans.
But in a departure from the comedians that traditionally follow the President, historian Ron Chernow delivered a history-filled keynote speech at the gala held in the Washington Hilton that contemplated the relationship of past Presidents with the press.
Chernow, the author of the Alexander Hamilton biography that inspired the hit musical "Hamilton", was well received as he alternated between clever jokes and a call to arms for democracy.
He told the audience of journalists that he had done his research -- by reading Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen's play, "An Enemy of the People", which is the way President Trump frequently refers to the press that covers him, reports NBC news.
"I had no idea the president was a fan of Norwegian literature."
Chernow advised journalists that when the President slams them with the phrase again, "please think of it in the Norwegian sense and wear it as a badge of honour".
He received a standing ovation after running through a list of journalists' accomplishments, declaring: "This is a glorious tradition -- you folks are a part of it, and we can't have politicians trampling on it with impunity."
He only mentioned Trump by name once, but the President's "enemy of the people" rhetoric came up repeatedly.
"When you chip away at the press, you chip away at our democracy," Chernow said.
He also said that everyone in attendance is part of "Team USA, not members of enemy camps".
His advice for the press? He quoted billionaire investor Warren Buffett saying "always take the high road. It's far less crowded there".
At cocktail parties before the sit-down dinner, several journalists commented that the event felt less tense without the presence of White House press officials who are torn between their day-to-day jobs and the President's anti-media attacks.
Last year's speech at the dinner, by comedian Michelle Wolf, was criticised by the Trump administration and also by members of the press.
Wolf's routine featured fierce jokes about Trump, his children and top members of his administration, including White House press secretary Sarah Sanders, who was sitting on the dais as Wolf mocked her as a liar.