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Jay Leno to host White House Correspondents' Association dinner

Jay Leno. (Paul Drinkwater/NBC)

The White House Correspondents' Association plans to announce Friday morning that Jay Leno will headline their annual pols-stars-and-reporters dinner on May 1.

An NBC source confirmed to our colleague Lisa de Moraes, and another source close to the discussions confirmed to us, that Leno ("this week's most unpopular stand-up comic," as Lisa put it) will do the comic keynote honors at the nationally televised event, which is traditionally attended every year by the president.

It's a step up in terms of starpower for a dinner that in recent years has been headlined by Wanda Sykes, Craig Ferguson and Rich Little. Leno, of course, is at the white-hot center of late-night controversy, with NBC announcing this week it would oust Conan O'Brien from his 11:30 p.m. spot and return Leno to "The Tonight Show" after its failed experiment running him at 10 p.m.

A source close to the decision said the association reached out to Leno -- who also hosted the dinner in 2004, 2000 and 1987 -- long before the Conan drama erupted. But no one's complaining about the controversy he'll now be toting.

"It's going to bring a lot of attention to a dinner that awards a lot of scholarships" -- over $100,000 worth to journalism students, including at Howard University, said the source.

Read more on Lisa's TV blog here.

UPDATED Friday, 11 a.m.: In the statement released Friday morning, WHCA president Edwin Chen announced that this year's event will be its "most eco-friendly dinner ever" -- i.e., paper-not-plastic, renewable energy, encouraging guests to car-pool, travel in hybrids, buy carbon offsets, etc. Make up your own joke about the gaseous outputs of a pols-stars-and-reporters confab -- we're tired.

Moving on! We're still three months away, but whom do you predict will be the gimmicky celeb zeitgeist guest -- the Fawn Hall, the Ozzy Osbourne, the Sanjaya of 2010 -- that all the news organizations vie to invite this year? Will it be the "Jersey Shore" kids? Peter Orszag's ex-girlfriend? Tareq and Michaele Salahi? Justin Bieber? Gilbert Arenas? A big blue "Avatar" cat person? Conan? Surely we're forgetting someone. Send us your suggestions in the comments...

By The Reliable Source  |  January 21, 2010; 11:05 PM ET
Categories:  44: Obama's Washington , Parties , Politics , White House Correspondents' Association Dinner  
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Do anyone really think this controversy is still going to be "white-hot" by the time May 1 rolls around? Conan's last episode is tonight, and that will be that.

Posted by: ComfortablyDumb | January 22, 2010 12:55 PM | Report abuse

Wanda Sykes is an alleged comedienne. Political fanatics are rarely funny.

Posted by: mhr614 | January 22, 2010 3:24 PM | Report abuse

How many seconds until the first "Bush is so dumb" joke ? Speak truth to power ? I hope Obama taxes Leno's Duesenbergs away .

Posted by: borntoraisehogs | January 22, 2010 4:32 PM | Report abuse

Why would you lie...

Jay DID NOT "push aside" Conan...NBC did.

Jay DID NOT request to return to The Tonight Show...he was asked to do so by NBC

If you are going to write an article, at least try to get your facts straight

Posted by: BarbarainPalmSprings | January 22, 2010 4:32 PM | Report abuse

To BarbarainPalmSprings: I think you may have been reading a different article. The author of this article clearly does not put the blame on Leno. There is no need to attack the author.

Posted by: hts1405 | January 22, 2010 11:23 PM | Report abuse

" ... Tareq and Michaele Salahi? ..." may have to wait to see when the defendents are due in a Maryland, Virginia and a DC courtroom, (maybe Federal) first. Though they are still running their url I am waiting to read that Congress is listed as an OFFICAL SPONSOR or an OFFICAL PARTNER. Salahis - Have Subpoenas, will Travel.

Posted by: Loviedarling | January 23, 2010 7:09 PM | Report abuse

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