The annual White House Correspondents' Association (WHCA) dinner is quickly approaching on April 25, and this year, comedy is making a comeback. On Tuesday, Feb. 18, the association announced its lineup for the dinner and it promises to be much more comedic than 2019's event, which featured a sobering speech from biographer Ron Chernow. So, who will host the 2020 White House Correspondents' Dinner? Viewers can expect an entertaining evening.
The WHCA announced on Tuesday that long-time Saturday Night Live cast member Kenan Thompson will be the emcee for the dinner, while Patriot Act host Hasan Minhaj will perform at the event for the second time during President Donald Trump's administration. Minhaj previously performed at the White House Correspondents' Dinner in 2017, when he likened Trump to Joffrey Baratheon from Game of Thrones. In a press release about the event, WHCA president and ABC News Chief White House Correspondent Jonathan Karl promised a "lively evening" with Thompson and Minhaj.
"Kenan and Hasan are two of the most engaged and engaging entertainers in America," Karl said. "I'm thrilled they'll help us celebrate the role of a free press in our democracy. We're looking forward to a lively evening honoring the most important political journalism of the past year."
In the three years since his inauguration, Trump has not attended a single WHCA dinner. In 2019, he told reporters that he planned to skip the "boring" dinner in favor of attending a "Make America Great Again" rally. But as The New York Times pointed out, Trump's absence from the dinner also marks a shift in what the event's purpose really is. Historically, the White House Correspondents' Dinner has been an opportunity for the president and members of the press to poke fun at one another and themselves while also raising money for media scholarships and awards. The dinner, which first took place in 1921, has received controversy over the years for creating an atmosphere of media elitism, per The Washington Post. But under Trump, the dinner — and the president's glaring absence from it — has also come to highlight Trump's continuously deteriorating relationship with the press, as The Daily Beast pointed out.
According to The New York Times, Trump is the first president to skip a White House Correspondents' Dinner since Ronald Reagan missed it following his assassination attempt in 1981 — and Reagan still called in to the dinner from his hospital bed. Throughout his presidential bid and his presidency, Trump has attacked various media outlets as "Fake News Media," and described the press as the "enemy of the people." Whenever he receives criticism from journalists, Trump often claims — without proof — that they are spreading misinformation, which in turn generates a greater public mistrust in the free press. The White House did not respond to a request for comment about Trump's rocky relationship with the press.
Despite the more serious connotations that the White House Correspondents' Dinner may have, Karl told The New York Times that Thompson and Minhaj will bring back some much-needed humor to the event. “The dinner has a serious message, but we also believe it is as important as ever to be able to laugh — at ourselves, as well as at the people we cover,” Karl told the Times. “I’d argue that humor is more important now than ever.”
It is not yet known whether Trump will attend the 2020 iteration of the WHCA dinner, and the White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment about whether the president would be there. As Karl told CNN, however, Trump would be the first president since Calvin Coolidge to not attend the dinner at least once during his presidency.