Hasan Minhaj, of The Daily Show fame, has been tapped to perform at this year's White House Correspondents' Dinner later this month, despite the fact that Donald Trump and White House staffers have decided to bail on the traditional event, Politico reports.
Jeff Mason, the president of the White House Correspondents' Association, revealed the choice on Tuesday in a relatively delayed announcement, since comedians chosen to perform at the dinner are usually announced in February. President Trump's "running war" with the media created some confusion among regular attendees unsure of whether or not the event would even happen this year. However, with this year's choice, Mason is hoping to keep the April 29 event civil.
"I was not looking for somebody who is going to roast the president in absentia; that's not fair, and that's not the message we want to get across," Mason said on MSNBC's Morning Joe 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 the free press."
According to the New York Times, Minhaj is a Muslim Indian American known for not only skewering the president as a senior correspondent on The Daily Show but also speaking to the obstacles first-generation immigrants face after moving to America. After joining the Comedy Central show in 2014, Minhaj created an Off Broadway play, Hasan Minhaj: Homecoming King, exploring his own backstory as an immigrant growing up in California. He also has some hosting experience as well, having been the headliner at Washington's Radio and Television Correspondents' Association Dinner last year.
"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!" Minhaj said in a statement Tuesday. "Now more than ever, it is vital that we honor the First Amendment and the freedom of the press."
Since 1921, the White House Correspondents' Association has held the annual scholarship dinner as a way for the media to rub elbows with the current administration and honor quality political reporting. But this year, Trump's hostility toward the media caused many news outlets to cancel their afterparties and inspired comedian Samantha Bee to host her own alternative event on the same night.
Typically, the headlining comedian cracks a few jokes about the current administration and the media before the president, the first lady, and the press secretary present awards. This year, however, Watergate journalists Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein will help hand out awards, as Trump will be the first president since 1981 not to attend.