Politics

Journalists in Tuxedos Vindicate Trump with Elitist Display

Press corps give themselves hearty pat on the back, issue hyperbolic warnings on First Amendment

Media elite and an obscure comedian came together on Saturday night to dine at the annual White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner, and to obsess over the 800-pound gorilla who wasn’t in the room.

The dinner’s entertainment was Hasan Minhaj, a relatively unknown comedian who apparently appears on Comedy Central’s  “The Daily Show.”

“This is no time for self-satisfaction or smugness.”

But one person who wasn’t at the dinner, one of the big events of the year in Washington, was President Donald Trump. Trump instead held a raucous rally in Pennsylvania, where he roasted the press.

The black-tie event in Washington contrasted poorly with the heartland rally. Media members seemed mostly to alternate between bathing in self-pity and self-congratulations. The event seemed less in touch with the America people than one would initially expect.

“Journalists, presidents, cabinet members, lawmakers, and diplomats have shown up for decades, and demonstrated that even though we have vastly different roles, government officials and reporters can come togther for one night,” said Jeff Mason, the WHCA president. Mason then paused.

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“Tonight looks a little different,” said Mason. “We are here to celebrate the press, not the presidency.”

Mason noted the dinner was sold out. He made the comment as if it were some grand act of defiance against the president.

“We are not fake news,” said Mason, a Reuters reporter, clad in a tuxedo. “We are not failing news organizations. And we are not the enemy of the American people.”

The crowd cheered and stood.

“The WHCA is proud to stand up for all of our members,” said Mason. “We must remain vigilant.”

Later in the evening, Mason read the First Amendment out loud, and followed it up with a video of actor Alec Baldwin, dressed up as Trump, saying “keep up the good work.”

Mason then asked for a toast to White House reporters.

Carl Bernstein, the Washington Post reporter who helped break the Watergate scandal in 1972 to 1974, had advice for the room, and used the opportunity to question Trump’s honesty.

“Follow the money, yes,” said Bernstein, bringing up a line from “All the President’s Men,” the Watergate movie. “But also follow the lies.”

But Bob Woodward, the Washington Post editor-at-large, said journalists should not have “a dog in the political fight” when they report.

Woodward said there has to be an “indispensable centrality” to truth reporting. And he noted the U.S. press is held in low esteem by the public.

“This is no time for self-satisfaction or smugness,” said Woodward.

But then that time came. Minhaj, a Muslim, walked up and introduced himself, making sure to quickly cast Trump as a Nazi.

“My name is Hasan Minhaj, or as I will be known in a few weeks, No. 830-287.”

Minhaj said despite everything “going on in the world,” a Muslim has taken the stage at the dinner — for the ninth year in a row (a joked aimed at former President Barack Obama, who is not a Muslim).

Minhaj said Obama could be water-skiing “while the world burns.”

Here are some of his most over-the-top jokes:

  • The leader of the world wasn’t at the dinner, Minhaj said, but it would be a long trip for Russian President Vladimir Putin.
  • Trump tweets at 3 a.m. sober. Who is tweeting at 3 a.m. sober?
  • “I do not see Steve Bannon.” Then Minhaj repeated that line, until he implied “Nazi.”
  • Minhaj said Vice President Mike Pence wasn’t there because of the presence of ovulating women.
  • Attorney General Jeff Sessions couldn’t be there, and wrote “no” on a response to his invitation. “No” is Sessions’ second-favorite N-word, Minhaj said (to groans).

Minhaj wasn’t too funny, and he knew it.

“Even if you guys groan, I’ve already hired Kellyanne Conway,” said Minhaj. “She’s going to go on TV Monday and tell everyone I killed.”

meet the author

Political reporter, LifeZette. Indiana University journalism grad. Boston U. business grad. Former Indiana, Alabama statehouse reporter, Daytona Beach editorial writer.

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