News and Commentary

Two Trump Critics To Headline White House Correspondents’ Dinner
Kenan Thompson as Darius Trump during the "Them Trumps Rally" sketch on Saturday, December 7, 2019
Dominique Russo/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

Over the past few years, the White House Correspondents’ Association took so much grief for hiring comedians who hate President Trump that last year the WHCA opted to choose as its “entertainment” one of the most eminent biographers of American presidents and statesmen, Ron Chernow.

But that was last year.

This year, the WHCA is bringing in not one but two longtime Trump critics to entertain the mostly liberal pack of journalists and politicos who cram into a posh ballroom at a Washington, D.C., hotel.

Kenan Thompson, the longest-tenured cast member of “Saturday Night Live” with 17 seasons under his belt, will serve as the master of ceremony for this year’s dinner on April 25. Hasan Minhaj, the former “Daily Host” personality and current host of “Patriot Act” on Netflix, will also appear. Minhaj performed a hate-filled set when he was the lone entertainer at the 2017 dinner.

The entertainers were picked by Jonathan Karl, chief White House correspondent for ABC News and currently president of the WHCA.

“Kenan and Hasan are two of the most engaged and engaging entertainers in America. I’m thrilled they’ll help us celebrate the role of a free press in our democracy,” Karl said in a statement. “We’re looking forward to a lively evening honoring the most important political journalism of the past year.”

Before Trump, who has never attended the dinner, presidents attended every year. The annual dinners got increasingly vicious during President George W. Bush’s two terms, but the liberal comics brought in during Barack Obama’s tenure typically went easy on the former president, turning them into liberal lovefests.

But the vitriol returned when a Republican moved back into the White House. In 2018, comedian Michelle Wolf was roundly criticized for a disgusting attack on then-White House press secretary Sarah Sanders, which prompted the change in entertainment last year. After that debacle, Trump ordered administration officials not to attend the correspondents’ dinner.

In 2017, Minhaj did 20 minutes of mostly unfunny material, at one point calling Trump the “liar in chief.”

“We gotta address the elephant that’s not in the room. The leader of our country is not here, and that’s because he lives in Moscow. It’s a very long flight. It’d be hard for Vlad to make it… As for the other guy, I think he’s in Pennsylvania ’cause he can’t take a joke,” Minhaj said. Trump held a massive rally in Pennsylvania that evening.

Minhaj hit Trump children Ivanka and Donald Jr., then attacked White House staffers and members of the administration.

“Mike Pence wanted to be here tonight, but his wife wouldn’t let him because apparently one of you ladies is ovulating. So, good job, ladies.”

Meanwhile, Thompson is often in skits on SNL that bash Trump. He also portrays the if-President Trump-were-black character on the show. In one skit, Thompson, wearing a blond wig, talks with Chris Redd, playing a Donald Trump Jr.-type character.

“You think your State of the Union is going to set all them haters straight?” Redd asks.

“Of course it is, son. Now let’s get up to the Capitol so I can do what I do and sauce on these hoes,” Thompson says. “I know how to deal with Mueller,” he adds. “I keep my white boys on a leash.”

Thompson also boasted about walking out on Kanye West when the rapper went on a pro-Trump rant on SNL in 2018.

But Karl says the evening will just be about fun.

“The dinner has a serious message, but we also believe it is as important as ever to be able to laugh — at ourselves, as well as at the people we cover,” Karl told the New York Times. “I’d argue that humor is more important now than ever.”