(The Hill) – Trevor Noah took aim at lawmakers on both sides of the aisle and hailed the important role played by journalists Saturday night as he marked the return of the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner following two years of cancellations due to COVID-19.
“It is my great honor to be speaking tonight at the nation’s most distinguished superspreader event,” the “Daily Show” host quipped as he took to the dais Saturday following Biden’s remarks at the annual gala.
“[Anthony] Fauci thought it was too dangerous to come tonight,” Noah said, referencing the nation’s leading infectious diseases expert saying he would be skipping the highly buzzed-about affair, which included more than 2,600 guests gathered at the Washington Hilton hotel.
“Pete Davidson thinks it’s OK,” Noah said of the “Saturday Night Live” star, who attended the dinner alongside girlfriend Kim Kardashian. “And we all went with Pete.”
“I’m not here to tear anybody down,” Noah insisted, saying he preferred to “roast you gently” before launching barbs about Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) and President Biden, among others.
“Give it up for Kyrsten Sinema,” Noah said of the Arizona lawmaker, often a target of progressives because of her role as a frequent stumbling block for Democratic priorities in the Senate.
“Whoever thought we’d see the day in American politics when a senator could be openly bisexual but a closeted Republican?”
Noah, a frequent critic of former President Trump, said of DeSantis, “If Trump was the original Terminator, then DeSantis is like the T-1000.”
Calling DeSantis, whose state generated controversy earlier this month for banning dozens of math textbooks, “smarter” and “slicker” than the 45th president, Noah noted Trump’s false claims about the 2020 election.
“Trump said he won the election, but everyone was able to look at the numbers and see that he was wrong. That’s why Ron DeSantis is one step ahead. First, you ban the math textbooks. Then nobody knows how to count the votes. Boom!” he said.
Turning his attention to Biden, Noah said, “I think everyone will agree that it’s actually nice to once again have a president who’s not afraid to come to the White House correspondents’ dinner.”
Trump, who often savagely sparred with the press — calling the “fake news media” the “enemy of the people” — bucked tradition and skipped the journalist-, Hollywood- and lawmaker-filled dinner throughout his years in the White House.
“People have been so hard on you, which I don’t get,” Noah said to Biden, before continuing with an inflation-related punchline. “Ever since you’ve come into office, things are really looking up: Gas is up. Rent is up. Food is up.”
“Biden’s lack of a filter does get him into hot water sometimes,” Noah told the crowd.
Biden caused a “huge international incident saying that [Russian President Vladimir Putin] should be removed from power,” Noah said.
“Very upsetting to Russia — until someone explained to them that none of the stuff Biden wants actually gets done.”
Knocking a number of news outlets and journalists — including Fox News, “Meet the Press” moderator Chuck Todd and the now-defunct CNN+ — Noah expressed empathy for journalists who are “battling conspiracy theories.”
“This is truly the golden era of conspiracy theories — whether it’s the right wing believing Trump can still win the 2020 election or the left believing that Joe Biden could still win the 2024 election.”
Thanking the dinner for choosing him as its headliner after two years of the event being nixed amid the pandemic, the 38-year-old comic, who was born in South Africa, cracked to Biden, “I was told you get your highest approval ratings with a biracial African guy standing next to you.” He then offered a short impression of former President Obama.
Noah later took on a more sober tone in his remarks, lauding the media’s work.
“The reason we are here is to honor and celebrate the Fourth Estate and what you stand for,” Noah said at the dinner, which raises money for journalism scholarships.
“Every single one of you, whether you like it or not, is a bastion of democracy,” he told the press. “Journalists are risking and even losing their lives to show the world what is happening.”
“If you ever begin to doubt your responsibilities,” Noah advised, then “look no further than what’s happening in Ukraine” since Russia invaded the country in February.
“Journalists are risking and even losing their lives to show the world what’s really happened,” he said.
Noah noted how “amazing” it is that reporters have “the right to seek the truth and speak the truth, even if it makes people in power uncomfortable.”
“I stood here tonight and I made fun of the president of the United States, and I’m going to be fine,” Noah said before turning with mock anxiety to Biden.
“I’m going to be fine, right?” he asked.
“Do you really understand what a blessing it is?” Noah exclaimed.
“Ask yourself this question: If Russian journalists who are losing their livelihoods … and their freedom for daring to report what their own government is doing, if they had the freedom to write any words, to show any stories, or to ask any questions, if they had basically what you have, would they be using it in the same way that you do?” he said.
“Ask yourself that question every day because you have one of the most important roles in the world,” Noah said.