Unprecedented: White House Correspondent Dinner 2017


On April 29, 2017, those attending the White House Correspondent Dinner evidently felt a large hole in the assembly; President Donald Trump had refused to attend. In spite of celebrating the complicated, yet ever so crucial and fair, relationship between the president and the press, Trump had gathered his own rally in Pennsylvania. Trump will go down in History as the first president to not attend the dinner. However, are we Americans really surprised? Since the day he ran for office, he showed us he would not be another ordinary leader, and has been shocking Americans ever since. However, his conflicting (to put it nicely) relationship with the press also played a role in his hesitation. Repeatedly, Trump has claimed the press is only “fake news” and even “the enemy of the american people.” Jeff Mason, the president of the dinner’s association, fired back at these remarks, confirming the press is not what Trump claims.

Trump’s absence seemed to encourage the night’s speaker, Hasan Minhaj, in poking fun at the president and even the press, lightly. Shortly into his presentation, Minhaj decided to address the “elephant that [was] not in the room.” Not only has history not seen a president reject this annual dinner, but it has not witnessed a correspondent deliver such a surprisingly hilarious speech. Minhaj even commented on the irony of his presence, admitting, “Who would have thought, with everything going on in the world right now, that a muslim would be standing on this stage!”

Minhaj pursued a comedic path throughout the night to lighten the controversial and heavy events at stake currently. Minhaj began to address America’s tense international conflicts by revealing America is better off when Trump golfs, a hobby the press has been particularly suspicious of, because “the longer you keep him distracted, the longer we are not at war with North Korea.” He even touched on Trump’s sobriety, explaining the alarming reality of it – all of Trump’s policies, tweets, and offending commentary has been made while he is sober. This eliminates the common excuse many use, expressing they were not in their right mind at the time aforementioned. This erratic behavior lends to the rather stressful news regularly seen in the press. Minhaj admitted, “[he had] been watching House of Cards just to relax.”

Except, it isn’t the president who notifies the press of his decisions. No, “he is the lier in chief,” said Minhaj. The press perform the job that is expected of them, and reveal the truth to Americans well. Unfortunately, this puts them first on Trump’s ensued hate list, right before ISIS and normal-length ties, as Minhaj described. Not only is the press on Trump’s bad side, but the press has lost the respect of his supporters. As a result, the astounding articles published every day will never make them waver in their loyalty. Minhaj confessed even his own show, The Daily Show, has made no impact. One interesting conclusion Minhaj realized about the time we live in revealed that, “trust is more important than truth.” Thus, the press’ job has been made much harder. No longer is the press granted a few mistakes occasionally, and a misunderstanding or two. For example, Minhaj condemned some press organizations for becoming “conspiracy theorists” with faulty logic. He even complained CNN’s front-lines give him homework to research, despite the fact that he is watching the news. He replied to this dilemma with: “No! You tell me [what’s going on]!”

Eventually, Minhaj wrapped up his argument admitting he does not have a plan to regain the public’s trust. However, he does know, “In the age of trump, [the press has] to be more perfect now than ever.” Minhaj believes the press is Trump’s news source, rather than advisors or intelligence agencies. Thus, they must be better and work harder than they have ever before. If one correspondent makes a mistake, Minhaj said, “they blame the whole group.” Here, Minhaj made his iconic punch-line that the press should now understand what it feels like to be a minority. Furthermore, He expressed his support for them as they finish the marathon with “1160 days to go.”

In closing, Minhaj recognized the first amendment for allowing him to freely speak on how he truly feels. “Only In America, can a first-generation Muslim kid get on this stage and make fun of the president,” declared Minhaj, and “that even the president is not beyond the reach of the first amendment.” Despite Minhaj’s previous claim that it was not a pleasure for him to speak at the dinner, anyone could see the moving satisfaction on his face, when he finished fully expressing his own ideas. After all, this tradition is all about that, right?