Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Asian American comedian will headline White House Journalists gala

Hassan Minhaj can be seen on 'The Daily Show' with host Trevor Noah.

ASIAN/AMERICAN comedian Hasan Minhaj has been tabbed to perform at the White House Correspondents' Dinner.

Unfortunately, the current White House resident, Donald Trump, unlike many of his predecessors, will not be in attendance.

"It is a tremendous honor to be a part of such a historic event even though the president has chosen not to attend this year. SAD!" said Minaj 
in a statement issued Tuesday (April 11)). "Now more than ever, it is vital that we honor the First Amendment and the freedom of the press."

It's too bad that Trump won't walk into the Lions' Den, many of whom were targets of Trump's tweets. Former presidents used the annual journalists' dinner to chide or throw shade at print reporters or TV anchors who have reported stories critical of the Chief Executive. 

Two years ago, Obama was able to tease Trump about the birther issue raised by the businessman that questioned Obama's birth certificate. Quick-cut to Trump: He was not laughing.

The Trump White House has had a rocky relationship with the press and even have gone so far to call the mainstream media "the opposition party" and label many of the critical stories as "fake news." The daily press briefings by Sean Spicer have become sparring matches with the media and media fact-checkers have pointed out Trump and his administration in many inaccuracies.

Donald Trump's tweets criticizing the media, the stories and individual journalists, are endless. Other Administration officials have reportedly been instructed not to attend the event, which has grown to include people from the entertainment world.

Because, he won't be present, journalists and performers will not "roast" Trump as has been customary in the past. Presidents Obama, Bush and Clinton used the event to fire back, in a sarcastic and funny way at the sometimes adversarial media. 

Minhaj is not as well-known as some of the comedians who have performed at the dinner. Minhaj has been a correspondent on Comedy Central's The Daily Show for two and a half years, but the dinner will certainly raise his profile.

"I was not looking for somebody who was going to roast the president in absentia. That's not fair, and that's not the message that we want to get across," Jeff Mason, the current president of the association, said on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" on Tuesday. "I was looking for somebody who is funny and who is entertaining, because I want the dinner to be entertaining, but who can also speak to the message that the whole dinner is going to speak to ... the importance of a free press."

Journalists Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward, who broke the Watergate scandal for the Washington Post, will also speak about the First Amendment.

In this era of fake news, online instant journalists, hacking from abroad and the nonending news cycle and the White House antagonistic relationship with the Fourth Estate, 
Mason stressed the WHCA's intention to use the dinner as a celebration of a free and independent press.

"This year, as we do every year, we will celebrate the First Amendment and the role an independent press plays in a healthy republic," he wrote. "We will also reward some of the finest political reporting of the past year while using our scholarship program to highlight and support up-and-coming journalists who are the future of our profession."

The Muslim son of immigrants from India, Minhaj often injects himself into jokes about Trump, relating in an emotional four-minute monologue the day after Trump’s election that his mother, a 30-year U.S. resident and citizen, asked him whether she would be able to get back into the country after traveling abroad.

“The fact that I can’t tell her yes with a hundred percent certainty is heartbreaking,” he said.

Presidents Obama, Bush and Clinton used the correspondents' dinner to make fun of the media and themselves.

Without the traditional presidential roast, here are some barbs from Minhaj that dinner attendees will probably not hear:

  1. "Usually, being a Muslim in an airport sucks, but this weekend, it was like I was The Weekend. I mean I land at JFK, I get to the arrival section. Literally, three white people run up to me, hug me and say 'thank you for being Muslim.' I'm 31 years old. That's the first time anyone has thanked me for being Muslim." — The Daily Show, January 30
  2. "Here's the beautiful irony. For years, Donald Trump has been terrified of the spread of Islam in America." (Cut to photos of protest signs including one that read "We are all Muslim now.") "Well, congratulations, Mr. President. Mission accomplished." — The Daily Show, January 30
  3. I'm panicking because melanin doesn't rub off … For the past 15 years, I've been blamed for 9/11. White Americans are now responsible for 11/9." "Donald Trump is white ISIS. 'Whisis'." - The Daily Show, December 8, 2015
  4. "Look, I know there's just a lot of nuance to the situation, and every conservative isn't the same, I know, but it's just easier on my brain to be irrationally afraid of an entire group of people. So, until we can figure out what's going on here, I, Hasan J. Minhaj, say we should not allow any conservatives into the White House." - The Daily Show, December 8, 2015
  5. "I didn't know you start foaming at the mouth when you say "I hate the Chinese" 50 times in a row. Thank you Donald Trump." — in a tweet, June 16, 2015
The White House Correspondents Dinner will be on April 29. Check local listings for television coverage.