White House Correspondents’ dinner: Six takes from the event

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Comedian Hasan Minhaj (R) had a tough crowd in Washington Post journalist Bob Woodward (C) and Reuters Editor-in-Chief Steve Adler (L)Image copyright
Reuters

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Comedian Hasan Minhaj (R) had a tough crowd in Washington Post journalist Bob Woodward (C) and Reuters Editor-in-Chief Steve Adler (L)

Donald Trump is the first commander-in-chief to skip the White House Correspondents’ Dinner (WHCD) since 1981, when then-President Ronald Reagan was recovering from a gunshot wound.

Democrats said he was probably still cringing from being roasted by President Obama at the 2016 edition.

But the president told supporters in Pennsylvania he “couldn’t possibly be more thrilled” to be far from the “very boring” dinner.

Here’s what he (and we) missed at the infamous black-tie affair…


1. Comedian Hasan Minhaj had the hardest job in comedy

Usually at the WHCD, the president gives a light-hearted speech mocking himself and the media – before being sent up by a comedian.

This year was always going to be different. Or as Daily Show correspondent Hasan Minhaj put it: “Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the series finale of the White House Correspondents’ Dinner!”

Some of his anti-Trump, anti-media jokes drew groans from the assembled journalists, but others raised a giggle.

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Media captionComedian Hasan Minhaj pokes fun at Donald Trump

Among the better lines:

  • “The leader of our country isn’t here. That’s because he lives in Moscow. It’s a very long flight… As for the other guy, I think he’s in Pennsylvania because he can’t take a joke.”
  • “I get why Donald Trump didn’t want to be roasted tonight. By the looks of him, he’s been roasting non-stop for the last 70 years.”
  • [To journalists]: “In the age of Trump, I know that you guys have to be more perfect than ever. Because you are how the president gets his news […] You can’t make any mistakes, because when one of you messes up, he blames your entire group. And now you know what it feels like to be a minority.”
  • “In four hours, Donald Trump will be tweeting about how bad Nicki Minaj* bombed at this dinner.” [*the female rapper]

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Twitter/Hasan Minhaj


2. Alec Baldwin’s quick-fire Trump impersonation

Actor Alec Baldwin has aroused Mr Trump’s fury with his impersonation on the NBC comedy show Saturday Night Live (SNL).

“It is a totally one-sided, biased show – nothing funny at all,” the president once sniffed.

But if you can’t have the man in charge, it’s natural to want the next best thing – so Baldwin donned his Trump wig and appeared by video link.

“Keep up the good work!” he told journalists with a smirk.

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Twitter / Hollywood Reporter


3. “Not the White House Correspondents’ Dinner”

Late-night TV show host Samantha Bee led a competing event – “Not the White House Correspondents’ Dinner” – on Saturday night, spawning a Twitter hashtag and a series of filthy one-liners.

Actor Will Ferrell made an appearance impersonating George W Bush, and the gags included a future America in which Vice-President Mike Pence is in charge after Mr Trump got his head stuck in a honey jar.

The event lived up to its name by failing to provide any dinner – although VIP attendees reportedly got taco salad.

Bee, who hosts TBS’s Full Frontal, donated $200,000 (£154,400) of the evening’s proceeds to the Committee to Protect Journalists.

Her more savage points included the claim that President Trump has tweeted more about Fox News since taking office than he ever has about his youngest daughter, Tiffany.

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Getty Images

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Host Samantha Bee onstage during Not The White House Correspondents’ Dinner


4. Twitter remembers Obama’s mic-drop

At his eighth and final White House Correspondents’ Dinner, President Barack Obama exited by decisively dropping the microphone, and intoning “Obama out”.

For some, the memory was too charming not to revisit.

“Better times” rued tweeter Regina Logan, while user Tammy begged: “Will the real President please come back”.

Others pointed out the irony of Mr Obama roasting Trump for being an unqualified conspiracy theorist, only for him to scoop the presidency.

“Was that the mic drop when Obama said Trump would never be President? Whoops!” wrote self-declared right-winger Chris11962.

(For the confused, here’s a history of mic dropping – a gesture designed to show you’ve had the final word.)

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Reuters

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Some recalled Barack Obama’s historic mic drop


5. A smack-down from the Watergate heroes

The headline guests of the Correspondents’ Dinner were veteran investigative journalists Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, who shot to fame during the Watergate scandal that brought down President Richard Nixon.

Addressing Mr Trump’s anti-media catchphrase – “fake news!”, Woodward responded: “Mr President, the media is not fake news – let’s take that off the table as we proceed.

“Whatever the climate, whether the media is revered or reviled, we should and must persist – and I believe we will.”

His words served as a reminder that the dinner is meant to celebrate journalism and the First Amendment – America’s constitutional right to free speech – as well as pillory the president.

White House Correspondents’ Association president Jeff Mason got a standing ovation for a similar point, stating: “We are not failing news organisations. And we are not the enemy of the American people.”

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Reuters

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Ex-Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein with White House Correspondents’ Association President Jeff Mason


6. There is always hope…

Despite refusing to show up this year, President Trump has in no way ruled out attending 2018’s White House Correspondents’ Dinner.

“I would come next year, absolutely,” he told Reuters news agency this week.

Excited already? Get the last Saturday of April in your diary…