White House Correspondents’ Dinner comedian announced
Daily Show comedian Hasan Minhaj will headline this year’s White House Correspondents Dinner, to be hosted by Watergate reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein after President Donald Trump announced he would not attend.
Mr Minhaj, who has an off-Broadway show based on his Indian-American immigrant experience, is a topical addition to the lineup in a country riven by debate over immigration.
“It is a tremendous honour to be a part of such a historic event even though the president has chosen not to attend this year. SAD!” Minhaj said in a statement.
“Now more than ever, it is vital that we honour the First Amendment and the freedom of the press.”
The Daily Show ‘Senior Correspondent’ has frequently touched on issues of race and immigration, and while hosting a Radio and Television Correspondents Associate Dinner last year ripped into Congress for inaction on gun control.
Jeff Mason, White House Correspondents Association President and White House Correspondent for Reuters, said he was thrilled to have Mr Minhaj on board.
“Hasan’s smarts, big heart and passion for press freedom make him the perfect fit for our event, which will be focused on the First Amendment and the importance of a robust and independent media,” he said.
Former Daily Show star and host of Full Frontal, Samantha Bee, plans to hold her own ‘Not the White House Correspondents’ Dinner’ which she says promises to be an edgier, no-holds-barred roast of Trump.
The actual White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner is known for politically charged jokes and what has become a customary stand-up routine by the President himself.
In 2011 President Obama spent several minutes roasting Donald Trump, who was seated in the audience at the time.
Obama’s set skewered Trump for being insubstantial, vain and obsessed with conspiracy theories – which several commentators have speculated may have spurred him to more seriously consider running for president.
In Donald Trump’s absence, famed journalists Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein will host the April 29 event.
Woodward and Bernstein led The Washington Post reporting team that investigated the 1972 break-in at the Watergate hotel, which eventually led back to the White House, prompting a scandal that forced Nixon to resign in 1974.
Planning for the event had been thrown into turmoil by the bitter war between Trump and the mainstream news media since the 2016 election campaign.
Amid Trump’s repeated barbs against the “dishonest media” and “fake news,” some journalists and media outlets had been thinking twice about their participation in the April 29 dinner, a tradition that dates back to 1921.
Trump announced in February that he would not attend, but the association said the dinner would still be held as scheduled to raise money for journalism scholarships.
The billionaire who took office in January will be the first president to skip the dinner since Ronald Reagan in 1981, who was recovering from an assassination attempt.
Mr Woodward, 74, remains on the staff of The Washington Post while the 73-year-old Bernstein has worked for ABC News and other news organizations, and written several books.
Bernstein has been a vocal critic of Trump, tweeting in December: “No president, including Nixon, so ignorant of fact and disdains fact in way @realDonaldTrump does. PEOTUS creates/thrives in truth-free zone.”
“Attacks on press by @realDonaldTrump more treacherous than Nixon’s,” he later wrote.
Mr Woodward told his newspaper that he did not expect to tell any jokes at the dinner.
“I think having two old guys like Carl and me will be enough comedy,” he was quoted as saying, adding that they would stress “the importance of aggressive but fair reporting.”
– with AFP