While a collection of media and celebrities gathered at the Hilton in Washington, D.C. for their annual, celebratory meet-and-greet, President Donald Trump was giving a vehement speech to supporters at a rally in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Trump was plainly aware of the significance of the contrast, spending the entire introduction of his rally speech attacking the mainstream media. Meanwhile, at the dinner, the president's absence loomed over the proceedings. Still, the White House Correspondents' Dinner (without Trump) managed to get in a few jabs at his expense.
Make no mistake, even though Trump wasn't in attendance, his no-show was certainly atypical. Not since 1981 has a sitting president skipped the event, and that was due to former president Ronald Reagan recovering from John Hinckley Jr.'s assassination attempt.
Basically, the president is always the center of focus and the most important person in any room they're in, and as such, they're usually the focal point of the entire dinner, with everyone watching to see how they'll react to the host's ribbing. And as it turns out, with Trump being a no-show, he didn't catch quite as much flack as he surely would have had he'd been there. Really, there were only a duo of jokes about the absent commander-in-chief.
The Only Don With Skin Thick Enough
Host Hasan Minhaj opened up with a nod to the late comedy legend Don Rickles, who nobody could deny had a thicker skin about insult comedy than the commander-in-chief does.
The Elephant That's Not In The Room
The ongoing scrutiny surrounding the Trump campaign and the Russian government proved to be fertile ground for this joke, which ended up being the last time Minhaj referenced Trump's conspicuous absence.
Trump, for his part, spent his evening bitterly attacking the media at his rally, although it did end early enough for him to catch Minhaj's speech if he had any interest in watching it. The man likes his television and media attention, after all, so it's not all that unlikely. And if he did, while Minhaj's pair of zingers may have irritated him, he'd probably come away feeling like he'd made the right decision. If he'd actually been there, it's hard to imagine he'd have gotten such an easy ride.