Saturday night, President Donald J. Trump became one of only a handful of sitting presidents to skip the White House Correspondents Dinner. Instead of attending, Trump elected to hold a rally in Pennsylvania commemorating his first 100 days in office. However, his absence didn’t stop him from being the dominant topic of conversation.
The Daily Show correspondent Hasan Minhaj served as host, and he wasted little time addressing Trump with a Game of Thrones reference roughly three minutes into his speech.
“I am truly honored to be here, even though King Joffrey is President, and it feels like the Red Wedding in here,” Minhaj said.
Minhaj also took shots at USA Today, the birther set, and Islamophobia.
“Who would’ve thought with everything going on in the country right now, that a Muslim would be standing on this stage for the ninth year in a row, baby?” Minhaj joked. “We had eight years of Barack, what’s another year? I see you, fam. I see you, Barry. What you doing right now? You jet skiing while the world burns?”
While the Trump administration’s meme-worthy moments such as calling global warming Chinese propaganda and offering “alternative facts” have created a contentious relationship with the media, Minhaj touted the merits of free speech—notably right as Trump's Chief of Staff took to Face the Nation to argue against it.
“Only in America can a Muslim get on this stage and make fun of the President,” Minhaj noted. “The man who tweets everything that enters his head, refuses to acknowledge the amendment that allows him to do it.”
Mainstream (FAKE) media refuses to state our long list of achievements, including 28 legislative signings, strong borders & great optimism!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 29, 2017
Meanwhile, roughly 140 miles up I-95, Trump gave his own thoughts on the media.
“A large group of Hollywood actors and Washington media are consoling each other in a hotel ballroom in our nation’s capital right now,” Trump told a crowd of supporters in Philadelphia. “They are gathered together for the White House Correspondents’ dinner—without the President. And I could not possibly be more thrilled than to be more than 100 miles away from Washington’s swamp, spending my evening with all of you and with a much, much larger crowd and much better people.”
Other notable Presidents to skip the White House Correspondents’ Dinner have included Ronald Reagan, Jimmy Carter and Richard Nixon.
Reagan had a good excuse—he skipped the event in 1981 while recovering from an assassination attempt. However, he did call in. Carter notably avoided dinners in 1978 and 1980, while Nixon eschewed WHCDs in 1970, 1972 and 1974.