The White House Correspondents’ Association announced today (April 11) that comedian and "The Daily Show with Trevor Noah" reporter Hasan Minhaj will be the featured speaker at its 2017 namesake dinner.
"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!" Minaj, the event’s first South Asian-American host, said in the association’s announcement. "Now more than ever, it is vital that we honor the First Amendment and the freedom of the press."
As Time notes, President Donald Trump tweeted in February that he would not attend the April 29 dinner, colloquially known as the "White House Correspondents’ Dinner." He last attended in 2011, where both then-President Barack Obama and headliner Seth Meyers ("Late Night with Seth Meyers") joked about Trump’s false accusations that Obama was born abroad. NBC News reported at the time that Trump is the first sitting president to skip the dinner since Ronald Reagan, who missed the 1981 ceremony while recovering from gunshot wounds sustained in John Hinkley Jr.’s failed assassination attempt.
The dinner occurs against the backdrop of public animosity between the Trump Administration and various media outlets. The New York Times, which Trump has called "fake news," reported in February that Vanity Fair and The New Yorker canceled then annual parties associated with the dinner. Journalists like U.S. News and World Report‘s Robert Schlesinger called for boycotts prior to Trump’s tweet about skipping the dinner. And "Full Frontal with Samantha Bee’s" namesake host will host a concurrent protest gala, "Not the White House Correspondents’ Dinner," on the same night. Proceeds for that event will go to the Committee to Protect Journalists, a non-partisan press freedom advocacy organization.
Minhaj used a similar opportunity last year, a speech at the Radio and Television Correspondents’ Association dinner, to criticize congressional inaction on gun control. He has not revealed what topics he will cover on April 29.