Saturday’s (April 29) White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner set itself apart from previous dinners in two major ways: 1) “The Daily Show with Trevor Noah’s” Hasan Minhaj was the annual gala’s first Desi keynote speaker and 2) President Donald Trump’s refused to attend. It was the first time a sitting president missed the dinner since Ronald Reagan skipped the 1981 event while recovering from an assassination attempt.
And while Trump instead celebrated the evening—his 100th as president—with supporters in Harrisburg, Minhaj embraced the night’s tribute to First Amendment rights and dropped joke after joke about 45, his associates and the mainstream news media. His lines attacking all of the aforementioned players’ issues, including those with race, provoked a mix of laughs, groans and non-plussed expressions (seriously, see the discomfort and anger all over audience members’ faces in the video above) from the predominantly White journalists assembled. Here are just some of his hardest-hitting bits on the racist state of affairs:
- “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?!”
- “Now, a lot of people think Steve Bannon is the reason Donald Trump dog whistles to racists. And that is just not true. Ask Steve Bannon. Is Steve Bannon here? I do not see Steve Bannon. I do not see Steve Bannon. Not see Steve Bannon, not-see Steve Bannon…Nazi Steve Bannon.”
- “Frederick Douglass isn’t here, and that’s because he’s dead. Someone please tell the president.”
- “Jeff Sessions couldn’t be here tonight. He was busy doing a pre-Civil War reenactment. On his R.S.V.P. he just wrote, ‘no.’ Just no! Which happens to be his second favorite N-word.”
- “Now I know some of you are wondering, ‘Hasan, how do you know so much about Fox News?’ Well, as a Muslim, I like to watch Fox News for the same reason I like to play ‘Call of Duty:’ sometimes, I like to turn my brain off and watch strangers insult my family and heritage.”
- “MSNBC, it’s hard to trust you guys when you send us so many mixed messages. On one hand, you tell us the prison industrial complex is the problem, and then you air five straight hours of “Lockup.” You can’t be mad at corporations profiting off of minorities and prison when you’re a corporation profiting off of minorities and prison.”
- “I don’t have a solution on how to win back trust. I don’t. But in the age of Trump, I know that you guys have to be more perfect now more than ever, because you are how the president gets his news—not from advisors, not from experts, not from intelligence agencies, you guys. So that’s why you gotta be on your A game, you gotta be twice as good. You can’t make any mistakes, because when one of you messes up, he blames your entire group—and now you know what it feels like to be a minority.”
- “And I can see some of you guys complaining—like, ‘What? I gotta work twice as hard for half the credit?’ Remember: you’re a minority. You guys got a lot more experience than me, but I got three decades of being Brown. So if you want to survive the age of Trump, you gotta think like a minority. And now that you’re a minority, oh man! Everyone is going to expect you to be the mouthpiece for the entire group. So I hate to say it, but somewhere right now, all of you are being represented by Geraldo Rivera.”
- “And then, when you actually manage to do great work, you get hit with the most condescending line in the English language: ‘Hey, you’re actually one of the good ones.’ Then you have to smile and say ‘thank you.’ Kind of sucks, doesn’t it? By the way, you guys aren’t really minorities, you guys are super White. But I can see MSNBC being like, ‘we got our minority card!’ No.”
- “Now that you guys are minorities, just for this moment, you might understand the position I was in [when deciding to speak at the dinner]. And it’s the same position a lot of minority kids feel in this country. You know, ‘Do I come up here and just try to fit in, and not ruffle any feathers? Or do I say how I really feel?’”
Watch C-SPAN’s full video of Minhaj’s speech above, or read Cosmopolitan’s transcript.