President Donald Trump didn't attend last night's White House Correspondents' Dinner. No surprise since Trump announced he'd be skipping the dinner honoring journalists back in February. He's the first president since Ronald Reagan in 1981, who was recovering from an assassination attempt, not to attend the event. Instead, he spent this Saturday night holding a rally in Pennsylvania where he continued to bash the media.
"As you may know, there's another big gathering taking place tonight in Washington D.C., did you hear about it?" Trump said to the crowd, which, as a clip from the Associated Press showed, immediately began booing. "A large group of Hollywood actors and Washington media are consoling each other in a hotel ballroom in our nation's capitol right now. They are gathered together for the White House Correspondents' Dinner, without the president."
Some of what Trump said was true. He was not there, and members of the media were, but there was a real lack of star power at this year's WHCD. During President Barack Obama's presidency guests included the likes of Kerry Washington, Shonda Rhimes, Broad City's Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer, and director Ava DuVernay, who tweeted a photo with the former president and First Lady Michelle Obama who she wrote: "respected the press enough to participate."
As the Washington Post pointed out, the latest WHCD hosted by The Daily Show's Hasan Minhaj didn't include such a star-studded guest list. The paper reported that Stranger Things actor Matthew Modine was there, along with Kathrine Herzer, who plays the daughter on Madam Secretary. Gone also, according to Washington Post, were the "corporate sponsors" from years past. Minhaj, a Muslim comedian, joked that he was the only host they could get this year since so many other celebrities were skipping the dinner.
"I would like to say it’s an honor to be here, but that would be an alternative fact,” he said. “No one wanted to do this so, of course, it landed in the hands of an immigrant. That’s how it always goes down.”
NPR reported that Trump's absence became the focus of the 2017 WHCD, along with the need for a free press during his presidency. Minhaj told the crowd that the president didn't show up because he "doesn't care about free speech" and is more focused on tweeting. “[Hours from now] Donald Trump will be tweeting about how bad Nicki Minaj bombed at this dinner … and that’s his right," Minhaj said. "I’m proud all of us are here to defend that right, even if the man in the White House never would.”
The truth was, if Trump was looking for Hollywood he should have been keeping an eye on Samantha Bee's Not The White House Correspondents' Dinner where, as Vanity Fair reported, special guest Will Ferrell showed up as President George W. Bush.