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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL
Julia Whiston Honored In White House Correspondents' Dinner; Journalism Awards Are Given; Hasan Minhaj Presents A Speech; Comedian Hasan Minhaj Speaks During Whca Dinner; Hasan Minhaj Says Donald Trump Doesn't Care About Free Speech; Hasan Minhaj Talks About How It's Like Being A Minority; Hasan Minhaj Closes His Speech On A More Serious Note. Aired 10-11p ET
Aired April 29, 2017 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JEFF MASON, PRESIDENT, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENTS' ASSOCIATION: -- person helping to make the program run flawlessly back stage. Julia Whiston, our executive director, has supported this association with heart and soul and guts for more than 20 years.
She has made planning a dinner for presidents, journalists, and thousands of guests in Washington look effortless and she has supported the principles of the first amendment by keeping the trains of our association running on time.
This will be the last dinner that she will oversee as our executive director before she retires next month. So, I'd like to invite her on stage as we salute her now with this video.
MASON: This dinner would not happen without Julie Whiston, period. We would not get the work done that we need to get done without Julie Whiston, period, and it wouldn't be as fun without Julie Whiston.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Julie Whiston got all of us here together and that's quite a feat.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Julie is truly irreplaceable and not only we want to thank her but also every president from Bill Clinton to Barack Obama.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Julie Whiston is incredibly grounded, kind, and generous.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Kind, generous, and capable beyond belief.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Smart, tough and indispensable.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, no matter how hot things get, I've never seen her break out in a sweat.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Julie Whiston brought this organization into the modern era and we're all very thankful and we always will be.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She is one classy lady. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Elegant and unflappable.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Whiston is family and her quarter century with us, we rejoiced in her marriage, we mourned when she mourned and most importantly we celebrated every year watching her daughters grow into great women.
Thank you, Julie, for letting us be part of your family.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Julie Whiston has been the heart and soul of this organization and she bailed me out quietly more times than I can count.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She's a vault and she's incredibly loyal.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Fiercely committed to journalism.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To me, Julie Whiston is an unsung hero of the first amendment.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Julia is the kind of person who knows what you need before you even know what you need.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Julie Whiston is a friend, now and forever.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's Julie's dinner. The rest of us are just her guests.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Julie Whiston is an impossibly hard act to follow.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think Julie is White House Correspondents' dinner in itself. If you were to say White House Correspondents' Dinner, who does it remind you of? Julie Whiston.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She's always striving for something special each year.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's not a lot of people in this business that you honestly look at and say, you know what? I'm going to miss that customer or I'm going to miss that individual. Julie's somebody that I will truly miss.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Congratulations, Julie.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Congratulations, Julie.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Congratulations, Julie.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We are so grateful. Congratulations, Julie.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Congratulations, Julie.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Congratulations, Julie.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Congratulations, Julie.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Congratulations, Julie.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Congratulations, Julie.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Congratulations, Julie.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Congratulations, Julie.
MASON: Congratulations, Julie.
JULIE WHISTON, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENTS' ASSOCIATION: Thank you. That's so sweet of you. Thank you so much. Thank you. Can I go now?
Julie did not know about that video and keeping that a secret may rank up there as one of our proudest accomplishments tonight. I'd like to welcome Julie's great family, her husband, Dave, who has also been a great supporter of the WHCA to join us here.
Julie, on behalf of all the journalists that you have supported over all these years, thank you, happy birthday and we will miss you.
WHISTON: Thank you, thank you. Thanks so much.
I feel like Miss America now. Thank you. It's been a privilege to work with so many wonderful people and I'll miss you all. Thank you.
MASON: We are lucky to have people like Julie and so many strong supporters who make the work of the WHCA possible.
Starting with the board members on this stage, these are the elected representatives of the White House press corps and they work day in and day out to make sure reporters can get into briefings, still photographers have space to take pictures, video journalists can run video on news events and radio reporters can get the sound they need for air time.
Thank you, board members, Jon, Alicia, Doug, Zeke, Julie, Todd, Olivier, and Margaret. I'd like to give a special shout out to Olivier and Margaret who helped me lead the process of choosing a new executive director and we are delighted that Steve Thomma, who you just saw with the flowers for Julie, will be filling that role.
Next, I'd like to thank George Lanier (ph), our terrific attorney who donates his and his firm's time and resources to the cause of protecting journalism. I will never forget a day, early in the presidential transition last year, when we had pushed back about having journalist in the lobby of Trump Tower in New York.
I called George who immediately mobilized colleagues to go to the scene, to advocate for our rights to be there. It was real advocacy in motion and it made a difference. Thank you, George. Thank you too, to the journalism groups who have been part of the
fight for press freedoms and who are present in support of the WHCA tonight, including representatives from Supporters Without Borders, a committee that protect journalists, the National Press Club and the Washington Press Club Foundation.
I'd also like to offer a personal thank you to those in this room who have been so supportive of me this year especially my family and dear friends who are joining me tonight.
I'd like to thank Thomson Reuters for giving me the opportunities it has and lastly I'd like to thank the members of the White House press corps. It is a privilege to work with each and every one of you every day.
Thank you for having my back and the back of the WHCA board. This is your dinner. This is our dinner. Will all the White House reporters in the room please stand and be recognized.
And that brings me to the toast. Tonight we salute White House reporters. Please raise a glass to them, to freedom of the press and to journalists here and around the world. Hear, hear.
The next speakers really need no introduction. Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein changed the course of history with their reporting on Watergate. Their work led scores of journalists to enter our profession and it continues to serve as a shining example of the importance of strong reporting and holding leaders at the highest levels of government accountable.
It is a true honor to have them here and I'd like to invite them to the podium now to speak and to present our journalism awards.
CARL BERNSTEIN, JOURNALIST, VANITY FAIR: Thank you. Shortly after Richard Nixon resigned the presidency, Bob and I were asked a long question about reporting. We answered with a short phrase that we've used many times since to describe our reporting on Watergate and its purpose and methodology.
We called it the best obtainable version of the truth. The best obtainable version of the truth. It's a simple concept yet something very difficult to get right because of the enormous amount of effort, thinking, persistence, push back, removal of ideological baggage and for sure luck that is required, not to mention, some unnatural humility.
Underlying everything reporters do in pursuit of the best obtainable version of the truth, whatever our beat or assignment, is the question, what is news? What is it that we believe is important, relevant, hidden perhaps or even in plain sight and ignored by conventional journalistic wisdom or governmental wisdom?
I'd say this question of what is news becomes even more relevant and essential if we are covering the president of the United States. Richard Nixon tried to make the conduct of the press the issue in Watergate instead of the conduct of the president and his men. We tried to avoid the noise and let the reporting speak.
During our coverage of Watergate and since, Bob and I have learned a lot from one another about the business of being reporters. Let me list here a few of the primary elements of Bernstein's reportorial education from Woodward. One, almost inevitably, unreasonable government secrecy is the enemy and usually the giveaway about what the real story might be and when lying, lying is combined with secrecy there is usually a pretty good road map in front of us. Yes, follow the money but follow also the lies.
Two, sources are human beings whom we need to listen to and empathize with and understand and not objectify simply as the means to get a story. We need to go back to our sources time and again over and over. The best obtainable version of the truth is about context and nuance, even more than it's about simple, existential facts.
The development and help of "Deep Throat", Mark Felt, as a source was a deeply human enterprise. When we were working on our second book, "The Final Days", Woodward did 17 interviews with Richard Nixon's White House lawyer. Sustained inquiry is essential. You never know what the real story is until you've done the reporting as Woodward says.
Exhaustibly gone back over and over to our sources, asked ourselves and them, what's missing? What's the further explanation? What are the details? What do they think it means? Our assumption of the big picture isn't enough. Our preconceived notions of where the story might go are almost always different than where the story comes out when we've done the reporting.
I know of no important story that I've worked on in more than half a century of reporting that ended up where I thought it would go when I started on it. The people with the information we want should not be pigeon holed or prejudged by their ideology or their politics. Almost all of our sources in Watergate were people who had at one time or another been committed to Richard Nixon and his presidency.
Incremental reporting is essential. We wrote more than 200 stories in Watergate. Whenever I'd say let's go for the big picture, the whole enchilada or whatever, Bob would say, here's what we know now and are ready to put in the paper and inevitably, one story led to another and another and the larger tale expanded because of this reportorial dynamic.
The best obtainable version of the truth became repeatedly clearer, more developed and understandable. We're reporters, not judges, not legislators. What the government or citizens or judges do with the information we've developed is not our part of the process nor our objective. Our job is to put the best obtainable version of the truth out there, period, especially now.
BOB WOODWARD, ASSOCIATE EDITOR, WASHINGTON POST: Thank you. I am honored to be standing here with Carl who has over the decades taught me so much about journalism. As he says reporting is about human connections, finding the people who know what is hidden, and establishing relationships of trust. That was the first lesson from Carl in 1972.
He obtained the list of people who worked at Nixon's reelection campaign committee. Not surprisingly from a former girlfriend. He's finally embarrassed. No one would talk.
Carl said here's what we have to do, launching the system of going to the homes of people, knocking on doors when we had no appointment. We later wrote, "The nighttime visits were frankly fishing expeditions."
The trick was getting inside someone's apartment or house. Bits and pieces came. We saw fear at times. We heard of document destruction, a massive house cleaning at the Nixon reelection committee, a money trail, an organized well-funded cover-up.
Clark MacGregor, then the Nixon campaign manager called Ben Bradlee, the editor of the Washington, post to complain. MacGregor reported. They knocked on doors late at night and telephoned from the lobby. They hounded five women. Bradlee's response, "That's the nicest thing I've heard about them in years," and he meant maybe ever.
In 1973, I recall standing on Pennsylvania Avenue with Carl after a court hearing. We watched three of the Watergate burglars and their lawyer fill in a cab, front and back seats. Carl was desperate, desperate that he would lose them in this opportunity. He was short on cash and didn't know where he might be going. I gave Carl $20. There was no room in the cab but Carl uninvited, got in anyway, piling in on top of these people as the door slammed. He ended up flying with the lawyer to New York City and came back with another piece of the puzzle. I never got my $20. The point, very aggressive reporting is often necessary.
Bradlee and the editors of the "Washington Post" gave us the precious luxury of time to pursue all leads, all people who might know something, even something small. Now in 2017, the impatience and speed of the internet and our own rush can disable and undermine the most important tool of journalism, that method, that luxury of time to inquire, to pursue, to find the real agents of genuine news, witness, participants, documents to dive in with the cab.
Any president and his administration in Washington is clearly entitled to the most serious reporting efforts possible. We need to understand, to listen, to dig, obviously, our reporting needs to get both facts and tone right.
The press, especially, the so-called mainstream media comes under regular attack, particularly, during presidential campaigns like this one and its aftermath. Like politicians and presidents, sometimes, perhaps too frequently, we make mistakes and go too far.
When that happens, we should own up to it but the effort today to get this best obtainable version of the truth is largely made in good faith. Mr. President, the media is not fake news.
Let's take that off the table as we proceed. As Marty Baron, the executive editor of The Post said, in recent speeches, reporters should display modesty and humility, bending over backwards and sincerely not only to be fair but to demonstrate to people we cover that we intend and will be fair.
In other words, that we have an obligation to listen, at the same time, Marty said, quote, "When we have done our job thoroughly, we have a duty to tell people what we've learned and to tell it to them forth rightly without masking our findings or muddling them." Journalists should not have the dog in the political fight except to find that best obtainable version of the truth. The indispensable centrality of fact-based reporting is careful, scrupulous listening, and an open mind.
President Nixon once said, "The problem with journalists is that they look in the mirror when they should be looking out the window." That is certainly one thing Nixon said that Carl and I agree with. Whatever the climate, whether the media's revered or reviled, we should and must persist and I believe we will.
We also need to face the reality that polling numbers show that most American disapprove of and distrust the media. This is no time for self-satisfaction or smugness but as Ben Bradlee said in 1997, 20 years ago, quote, "The more aggressive our search for truth, the more, some, people are offended by the press. So be it." Ben continued. Ben continued, "I take great strength knowing that in my experience, the truth does emerge. It takes forever sometimes but it does emerge and that any relaxation by the press will be extremely costly to democracy."
Carl and I are grandfathers, perhaps, great-grandfathers in American journalism but we can see that the three journalists that we are recognizing tonight are some of the finest examples of that craft of persistence. Thank you.
So, we're give -- going to give out these awards and they're cash awards but I understand that the cash is redeemable for shares in Amazon which may be a better investment. The --where are the winners?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Go ahead and start.
WOODWARD: Oh, they're ready. OK, thank you. The Aldo Beckman Award goes to Greg Jaffe of the "Washington Post".
GREG JAFFE, REPORTER, WASHINGTON POST: Thank you very much.
WOODWARD: Greg, thank you. Good.
It is for his coverage of the last days of the Obama presidency. The contrast show which he demonstrated between the realities of 2016 and the hopes of 2008 and he examined quite brilliantly the political divisions in the Obama years.
The Merriman Smith Memorial Award goes to Edward-Isaac Dovere of Politico.
EDWARD-ISAAC DOVERE, CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, POLITICO: Thank you. WOODWARD: This is an award for his deadline coverage of the meeting
between President Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro and it demonstrated and I think he did the story 90 minutes after this happened and it showed the importance of having reporters on the ground who actually knew what was going on.
BERNSTEIN: Finally, the Edger A. Poe award goes to David Fahrenthold of The "Washington Post".
And, as many in this room know, David is being honored for his comprehensive investigation of candidate Donald Trump's charitable giving and the real numbers. Congratulations.
MASON: Thank you, Bob and Carl and congratulations award winners, a special thank you as well to our judges this year who were coordinated by Ellen Shearer of the Medill School of Journalism.
It is now time to get to the entertainment portion of our program and I couldn't be more pleased to introduce Hasan Minhaj. I've had the pleasure of getting to know Hasan over the course of the last few weeks and I'm psyched to say he is keenly interest in what we do and the causes we fight for.
Hasan is a senior correspondent on The Daily Show with Trevor Noah on Comedy Central and his one-man show Homecoming King will debut on Netflix on May 23rd.
Ladies and gentlemen, Hasan Minhaj.
HASAN MINHAJ, SENIOR CORRESPONDENT, THE DAILY SHOW: Wow. Thank you. Wow. Oh, my god.
Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the series finale of the White House Correspondents dinner. Oh, man.
My name is Hasan Minhaj or as I'll be known in a few weeks, number 830287. 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. We had eight years of Barack, what's another year? I see you, fam. I see you, Barry. What you doing right now? You jet-skiing while the world burns? That's cool, that's cool. That's cool.
For those of you who don't know me, I am a correspondent on "The Daily Show" on Comedy Central. Now, I see some of you whispering to each other. What is Comedy Central? It's basically an internship for Netflix.
I'd like to thank Jeff Mason and the White House Correspondents' Association for having me. I would say it is an honor to be here, but that would be an alternative fact. It is not. No one wanted to do this. So of course, it lands in the hands of an immigrant. That's how it always goes down. No one wanted this gig. No one. Don Rickles died just so you wouldn't ask him to do this gig, all right? RIP to Don Rickles, the only Donald with skin thick enough to take a joke like that. RIP to the legend. I'm sorry, I'm sorry. That's my only Trump joke. I was explicitly told not to go after the administration. I promise you that's my only Trump joke.
JEFF MASON, PRESIDENT, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENTS' ASSOCIATION: You were not told that.
MINHAJ: Believe me.
It is amazing to be surrounded by some of the greatest journalists in the world, and yet when we all checked into the Hilton on Friday, we all got a "USA Today". Every time a "USA Today" slides underneath my door, it's like they're saying, "Hey, you're not that smart, right?" "USA Today" is what happens when the coupon section takes over the newspaper. Is this an article about global warming or 50 cents off Tide? Either way, the pictures are so pretty.
Tonight is about defending the First Amendment and the free press, and I am truly honored to be here, even though all of Hollywood pulled out now that King Joffrey's president and it feels like the Red Wedding in here.
For the record, the WHCA is a group of journalists that cover the White House, they are not King Joffrey's goons. So I'm so glad you guys are all here tonight to honor a great American tradition, because we all know this administration loves deleting history faster than Anthony Weiner when he hears footsteps. So thank you for being here.
OK, listen. I get it, I get it. We got to address the elephant that's not in the room. The leader of our country is not here. And that's because he lives in Moscow. It is a very long flight. It'd be hard for Vlad to make it. Vlad can't just make it on a Saturday. It's a Saturday.
As for the other guy, I think he's in Pennsylvania because he can't take a joke. Now, for the nine people watching on C-SPAN, there also was another elephant in the room, but Donald Trump Jr. shot it and cut off its tail.
You know, a lot of people told me, "Hasan, if you go after the administration, it would be petty, unfair and childish." In other words, presidential, so here we go. I get why Donald Trump didn't want to be roasted tonight. By the looks of him, he's been roasting nonstop for the past 70 years.
Historically, the president usually performs at the Correspondents' Dinner, but I think I speak for all of us when I say he's done far too much bombing this month. Now, a lot of people in the media say that Donald Trump goes golfing too much. You guys are always like, "He goes golfing too much," which raises a very important question, why do you care?
Do you want to do -- do you want to know what he's not doing when he's golfing? Being president. Let the man putt putt. Keep him distracted. Teach him how to play badmin. Tell him he has a great body for bobsledding. Play him Tic-Tac-Toe. The longer you keep him distracted, the longer we're not at war with North Korea.
Every time Donald Trump goes golfing, the headline should read, "Trump Golfing, Apocalypse Delayed. Take the W." This is great. I love this. Even if you guys groaned, I've already hired Kellyanne Conway. She's going to go on T.V. on Monday and tell everybody I killed, so it really doesn't matter.
But I love that everybody's drinking and having a good time. This is beautiful. You know Donald Trump doesn't drink, right? Does not touch alcohol. Which is oddly respectable. But think about that. That means every statement, every interview, every tweet, completely sober. How is that possible? We've all had that excuse, haven't we?
We're like, "I said what? No, listen babe, I swear to you I was hammered. That's not who I really am." What does Donald Trump tell Melania? "Listen, babe, last year on that bus with Billy Bush, that's exactly who I am." He tweets at 3:00 a.m., sober. Who is tweeting at 3:00 a.m. sober? Donald Trump, because it's 10:00 a.m. in Russia. Those are business hours.
You know, now that a professional wrestler's our president, anything is possible. You know that statement, anything is possible, used to have a positive connotation? "Anything is possible." Now we're all like, "anything is possible." Anything. The news coming out of the White House is so stressful, I've been watching "House of Cards" just to relax. I'm just like, "Oh, man, a congressman pushed a journalist in front of a moving train? That's quaint."
Now, it's not just the president who decided not to show up. His entire administration is not here. Betsy Devos couldn't be here. She's busy curating her collection of children's tears. Now, a lot of people think Betsy Devos is out of touch with working-class America, but you listen to me, and you listen to me right now, OK? Every morning, Betsy Devos is up at 5:00 a.m., putting her children on their flight to school. So don't you tell me she's out of touch, OK?
Hey, has anyone see Rick Perry since he became energy secretary? I have a feeling he's sitting in a room full of plutonium, waiting to become Spider-Man. That's just my hunch. 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. Not see Steve Bannon. Nazi Steve Bannon. Frederick Douglass isn't here, and that's because he's dead. Someone please tell the president.
Mike Pence wanted to be here tonight, but his wife wouldn't let him, because apparently, one of you ladies is ovulating. So good job, ladies. Because of you, we couldn't hang out with Mike Pence.
Now, Ivanka Trump isn't here either and I wish she was. Because if she was here, I would ask her the question that we're all thinking. Why? Why do you support this man? Because I get it. We all love our parents, but we wouldn't endorse them for president. If someone's like "Hey, Hasan. Should your dad be president of the United States?" I'd be like, "My dad? Najmi Minhaj? The guy who tries to return used underwear to Costco? No."
Jeff Sessions couldn't be here tonight. He was busy doing a pre-Civil War reenactment. On his RSVP he just wrote, "No." Just no, which happens to be his second favorite N-word. You know, even Hillary Clinton couldn't be here tonight. Hillary Clinton could -- I mean, she could have been here, but I think someone told her the event was in Wisconsin and Michigan. So -- what? What? You guys -- you know, Nate Silver told me that joke would kill. Nate Silver told me there was a 74.1 percent chance of that joke killing. I believed you, Nate. Did you hear that groan, Nate? I can't believe I believed you, man.
OK, enough about House Slytherin. We are here to talk about the truth. It is 2017 and we are living in the golden age of lying. Now's the time to be a liar and Donald Trump is liar-in-chief. And remember, you guys are public enemy number one. You are his biggest enemy. Journalists, ISIS, normal-length ties. And somehow, you're the bad guys.
That's why you got to keep your foot on the gas, especially with Sean Spicer, who is not here tonight because I think he's at home Googling how to fake his own death. But I love it when you give it to Sean Spicer. Sean Spicer gives press briefings like someone is going through his browser history while he watches. Just panic, like, "No, wait. Stop it. Stop it. Stop it. Stop shaking your head. Stop shaking your head. Stop shaking your head. We'll talk about this tomorrow." It is the best.
Now, you guys are laughing, but realize, Sean Spicer's been doing P.R. since 1999. He has been doing this job for 18 years, and somehow, after 18 years, his go-to move when you ask him a tough question is denying the Holocaust. That is insane. How many people do you know that can turn a press briefing into a full-on Mel Gibson traffic stop? Only the Spice Man. Only the Spice Man.
You know what's crazy? Every day on "The Daily Show", we do these jokes all the time. We're like, "The administration lies, Trump flip flops." It doesn't matter. His supporters still trust him. It has not stopped his momentum at all. It's almost as if "The Daily Show" should be on C-SPAN. It has left zero impact. It's true.
And I realized something. Maybe it's because we're living in this strange time where trust is more important than truth. And supporters of President Trump trust him. And I know journalists, you guys are definitely trying to do good work. I just think that a lot of people don't trust you right now. And can you blame them? I mean, unlike Anderson Cooper's bone structure, you guys have been far from perfect.
Remember Election Night? I mean, that was your Steve Harvey Miss Universe moment. The look on your faces at 11:00 p.m. on Election Night, it was like walking into a Panera Bread and finding out your sixth grade teacher has a part time job there. I was like, "What? Mr. Leddington (ph)? I guess you don't have all the answers." Because it was all fun and games with Obama, right? You were covering an adult who could speak English. And now you're covering President Trump, so you got to take your game to a whole new level. It's like if a bunch of stripper cops had to solve a real-life murder. Fox News is here. I'm amazed you guys even showed up. How are you here
in public? It's hard to trust you guys when you backed a man like Bill O'Reilly for years. But it finally happened, Bill O'Reilly has been fired. But then, you gave him a $25 million severance package, making it the only package he won't force a woman to touch. Now, in O'Reilly's defense, he was told by a close friend, "When you're a star, they let you do it. You can do anything."
You guys are having a hard time with Jesse Watters right now, too. He's on a break right now. Right. He's on a break. Just like my childhood dog is staying at a farm upstate. I get it. I know that move.
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 is here tonight, and I'm glad you guys are here tonight. That way, if I'm bombing, Brian Williams will describe it as stunning. 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 have one quick request. MSNBC, please tell Rachel Maddow to chill about Trump's tax returns. I don't know what you think you'll find in there, but there isn't going to be a line item that just says, "Bribes from Russia." That's not how it works.
You're like "Oh, I found the 1040 USSR." It doesn't work like that. You're the liberal news outlet. Like, we dress the same, I look like a melanin version of Chris Hayes. I want to root for you guys, but you're turning into conspiracy theorists every night. You're like, "The Russians hacked our elections. The Russians hacked our elections."
Meanwhile, everybody in Latin America and the Middle East is like, "Oh, a foreign government tampered with your elections? What is that like?" Do tell, MSNBC. Just pump the breaks. We're only on Day 100. By the end of the year, you guys are all going to have tinfoil hats and jars of urine all over your desks. Now, I had a lot more MSNBC jokes, but I don't want to just ramble on, otherwise I might just get a show on MSNBC.
Last but not least, my favorite entertainment channel is in the building tonight. CNN is here, baby. Now, you guys got some really weird trust issues going on with the public. I'm not going to call you fake news, but everything isn't breaking news. You can't go to DEFCON 1 just because Sanjay Gupta found a new moisturizer.
Every time a story breaks, you guys go to nine screens. Nine boxes on the screen. I'm trying to watch the news, not pick a player in Street Fighter. It's giving me anxiety. If you have nine experts on a panel, what is your barrier of entry? "Here to talk about transportation infrastructure is my Uber driver, Gary. Gary, what do you got?" It just says Gary, 4.8 stars. He's like, "I don't know, I got a mint?" "Thanks, Gary. Let's go to the countdown clock to the next countdown clock."
All you guys do is stoke up conflict. Don, every time I watch your show, it feels like I'm watching a reality T.V. show. "CNN Tonight" should just be called, "Wait a Second. Now Hold On. Stop Yelling at Each Other", with Don Lemon. You know you're news, right? Come on.
But every time I watch CNN, it feels like you're assigning me homework. "Is Trump a Russian spy? I don't know, you tell me. Tweet us @AC360." No, you tell me. I'm watching the news. But it feels like I'm watching CNN watch the news. Please, just take an hour. Figure out what you want to say, then go on the air.
But whenever I turn you guys on, it feels like a little kid just ran into the room and is trying to tell you a story. You're just like, "There's a wall, it's 1.4 bil, 1.4 bil -- Paul Ryan?" Breathe. Take a minute. Drink some milk. Then tell us the story, Wolf.
I know I'm busting balls. 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 got to be on your A-game. You got to 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 got to 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 got to 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.
See, now that you're truly a minority, there's a distorted version of you out there. You know, Taco Bell for Mexican culture. Panda Express for Chinese culture. "Huffington Post" for journalism. 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.
But your work is invaluable, and I mean that as a fake journalist. I am rooting for you. We're 100 days in, 1,360 days to go. You guys are running the marathon and I'm at the half-mile mark, giving you tape for your nipples. So I'm wishing you nothing but the best. You chafed, man? You a little chafed? It's a long way to go. This has been one of the strangest events I have ever done in my life, to be honest with you. Like, I feel like I'm a tribute in the Hunger Games. Like, if this goes poorly, Steve Bannon gets to eat me.
But I was asked to not roast the president and the administration in their absentia, and I completely understand that. We are in a very strange situation where there's a very combative relationship between the press and the president. But now that you guys are minorities -- just for this moment -- you might understand the position I was in, and it's the same position a lot of minority kids feel in this country.
And it's -- 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? Because this event is about celebrating the First Amendment and free speech. Free speech is the foundation of an open and liberal democracy. From college campuses to the White House, only in America can a first generation Indian-American Muslim kid get on this stage and make fun of the president. The orange man behind the Muslim ban. And it's a sign to the rest of the world. It's this amazing tradition that shows the entire world that even the president is not beyond the reach of the First Amendment.
But the president didn't show up, because Donald Trump doesn't care about free speech. The man who tweets everything that enters his head refuses to acknowledge the amendment that allows him to do it.
Think about it. It's almost -- what is it, 11:00? It's 11:00 p.m. right now. In four hours, Donald Trump will be tweeting about how bad Nicki Minaj bombed at this dinner and he'll be doing it completely sober. And that's his right. And I'm proud that all of us are here tonight to defend that right, even if the man in the White House never would.
So I would like to thank the White House Correspondents' Association for having me here. I want to thank all of you. I want to thank Woodward and Bernstein for inspiring a generation of journalists. And I would like to thank Donald Trump for inspiring the next. Thank you so much. It's been an honor. Good night. I love you. Thank you. Thank you, guys. Thank you guys. Thank you. I really appreciate it. Thank you.
POPPY HARLOW, CNN HOST: All right, there you have it. Comedian Hasan Minhaj exercising his First Amendment right tonight in a very big way, taking on --
JOHN BERMAN, CNN HOST: A lot. A lot.
HARLOW: -- a lot. Taking on the administration, taking on the media in, you know, equal amount as well, saying some very controversial things there, including at the end, Donald Trump does not care about free speech.
BERMAN: He said the leader of the free world could not be here tonight because he's sleeping in Moscow right now and it's a long flight. Let that sink in.
All right, we have time for quick reaction. Everyone here is still with us. I want to know, did you laugh at least once and groan at least once, you know, at the performance there? Governor Jennifer Granholm, you know, what did you think?
JENNIFER GRANHOLM, FORMER GOVERNOR OF MICHIGAN: I thought he was actually totally endearing. I mean, he's young, he has those big eyes, he was very engaging, and I loved the -- all the thread of jokes about Donald Trump not drinking and he actually tweets at 3:00 in the morning. That was a -- those were great. Especially Nicki Minaj just -- did really well at this. And this is part of the tweet. That was great.
HARLOW: Look, Paris, a number of his remarks were jokes and some of them were not. Your takeaway from tonight? You know, he said the president isn't here, essentially, to face this. And he said he personally sort of walked the line between not roasting the president in absentia, which he did, and deciding to just say what he really felt. As a big supporter of the president throughout, what's your reaction?
PARIS DENNARD, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: You know, I didn't appreciate when the comedian, last year, called the president the N- word in his face. Didn't appreciate it when this comedian called Steve Bannon a Nazi, referred to the attorney general by saying he uses the N-word and saying our press secretary is a Holocaust denier.
I think you have the right to free speech. You do. But with free speech comes responsibility, and I think that journalists and everyone in that room, and everyone who takes that podium and has that message to American people should remember the responsibility with which they (INAUDIBLE) by recording these things that aren't funny.
BERMAN: You know, he said he -- I don't know if he was joking or not about being asked not to roast the president in absentia. He did. I mean, there was no line. He walked there.
HARLOW: Well, Jeff Mason said, you know, "We didn't ask you that." But Jeff Mason was quoted as saying, you know, the president isn't here to defend himself.
BERMAN: But he went after the president hard. Very hard.
HARLOW: Very hard.
BERMAN: Which is, you know, as hard as comedians have in the past when the president has been right there. You know, David Gergen, before that -- we'll come back to the comedian in a second -- before that, we did hear from Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward about the importance of journalism.
DAVID GERGEN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Absolutely. And I thought that the two -- the comedian and Woodward and Bernstein were nice bookends because (INAUDIBLE) about the -- about how important it is in this country, First Amendment, to protect immigrants, that you can stand up and challenge your country you've just come to.
And we don't think about that very much, but I hope -- I thought, what was really important about Carl and Bob -- and I've known them a long time I was in the White House.
BERMAN: when they were doing what they were doing.
GERGEN: Yes, what they were doing, yes. I must tell you, it taught me a lot about the First Amendment, how they did things. Bob and I went to school a long time ago together, and we would sometimes talk and I can just tell you, as he did that reporting back then, we were always told in the White House, "These guys are lying. Kaye -- and, you know (INAUDIBLE) is just out to screw us. Kaye Graham is out to screw us." That was the line inside the White House.
And then when I talked to Bob, I realized he's telling me the truth about what's happening. It's the people inside who are lying.
HARLOW: And, you know --
GERGEN: And it was really revealing. I came away with a lot of respect for those two and what they have come to respect in journalism.
HARLOW: I'm just pulling out Berman's (INAUDIBLE) because he rightly put out one of the things Bob Woodward said tonight, "The media should not have a dog in the fight other than to find the best attainable version of the truth." And that is very much what respect for the First Amendment and media and Fourth Estate is all about, Governor.
GRANHOLM: It absolutely is. And I think that the fact that this comedian said in this environment that truth has given way to trust, meaning that if you trust Donald Trump, it doesn't matter what he says. There was a lot of truth to that statement, as we have seen over the past few months.
BERMAN: Yes, Paris, I'm just curious. You know, can you ever make fun of a president at all? By your standard, it sounds like it's hard to make fun of a president at all. Did you laugh anywhere?
DENNARD: No, there were certain things -- some of the things that he said were definitely funny. But I think that there are some things that just aren't funny. When you have no basis to call somebody -- call Sean Spicer a Holocaust denier, that's not funny.
When you say that the attorney general uses the N-word, that's offensive to me. Now, I did appreciate some of the things, the points he made about being the only minority in the room and the standard you have, and the burden that you have to bear. I bear a lot by being the only black republican a lot of times in the room.
But I also will note this about the freedom of speech argument. Freedom of speech also goes to conservatives and republicans. And so, when you look at college campuses across this country, when conservatives are booted for wanting to talk about free enterprise and republican party and conservatism, that's not the America that I know and I hope that more of our journalists will stand up for the conservative voice as well as they do the liberal voice.
HARLOW: Governor, your response to that?
GRANHOLM: Yes. I mean, I'm somebody who's on the faculty at Berkley and I'm -- Berkley stands for free speech, and you want to have as many people speaking as you can. You also want people to be safe. You got to know the students were not the protesters. These were outside agitators who had threatened violence. It's a balance, but clearly you have to have free speech on both sides.
DENNARD: I'm always able to come to Berkeley.
GRANHOLM: Come on over.
BERMAN: David Gergen, I have to tell the audience, you were laughing uproariously out loud at certain points in that routine.
GERGEN: I thought some lines were terrific. Jennifer was bending over with laughter, too.
I really love the fact he needled CNN the way he did. It was funny.
HARLOW: If that's it, we'll take it. Berman laughed most at the nipple tape joke.
GRANHOLM: Must be a runner. That's why.
BERMAN: It's true.
Chafing is a problem. Breaking news. Breaking news. Chafing is real.
We will have a panel of nine people to talk about that coming up.
Guys, thank you all so much for being with us.
HARLOW: Thank you for being with us. it's been a fun night.
Berman will go run a marathon and all that chafing stuff.
See you all here tomorrow morning.
Thanks for being with us.