Mr. Chernow described Hamilton as “an immigrant who arrived, thank God, before the country was full.” He noted that John Adams, who took steps to outlaw criticism of the government, failed to earn a second term. “Campaigns against the press don’t get your face carved into the rocks of Mount Rushmore,” he said, “for when you chip away at the press, you chip away at our democracy.” He concluded his remarks by quoting Mark Twain: “Politicians and diapers must be changed often, and for the same reason.”
A year ago, Matt Schlapp, the chairman of the American Conservative Union, stormed out in the middle of Ms. Wolf’s raucous set. On Saturday, he stuck around to the end, though he stopped short of endorsing Mr. Chernow’s remarks. “I had a lot of college professors who said the same thing,” Mr. Schlapp, whose wife, Mercedes, is a top White House adviser, said as he left the Hilton ballroom.
Another Trump associate in attendance gave better marks. “It was perfectly spot-on for the time and for where we are in the world,” Gary Cohn, the president’s former chief economic adviser, said afterward. “It sort of hit the spot.”
The writer and director Judd Apatow defended Ms. Wolf last year. But on Sunday, he praised Mr. Chernow’s performance as “a refreshing new approach.”
“On the surface, one might think it is a safe choice, a retreat,” Mr. Apatow wrote in an email. “But having someone who actually reads and understands the lessons of history, as opposed to our president, makes a very strong, even aggressive statement about the dangers of having a president with no grasp of history or the true spirit of our country.”
Once a high point of the Washington social calendar, the dinner has lost some of its glamour since Mr. Trump came to town. Hollywood agencies still threw parties the night before, but the big celebrity attraction this year was the actor Michael Kelly, who played Doug Stamper on the now-canceled political drama “House of Cards.” Sean Spicer, the former press secretary, showed up to an event with a camera crew from “Extra,” his current employer.
At a charity brunch on Saturday hosted by the Washington doyenne Tammy Haddad, Jay Leno was the featured guest — and even he seemed unimpressed. “We’ve pretty much reached the bottom of the barrel here,” the former “Tonight Show” host quipped of his appearance. Mr. Leno’s next joke, which compared the event’s “spring garden” dress code to a feminine hygiene product, did not exactly kill.