POLITICS
04/30/2018 12:00 pm ET

Seth Meyers Recalls The Correspondents' Dinner When He Torched Trump

It's been speculated that the jokes he told in 2011 spurred Trump to seek the White House.

Talk show host Seth Meyers on Monday posted a sardonic response to President Donald Trump’s attack on this year’s White House Correspondents’ Association dinner that included a mention of Meyers’ 2011 performance at the gathering — which some say helped stir Trump’s presidential ambitions.

In a tweet on Sunday, Trump criticized the controversial comic routine by the entertainer at Saturday’s dinner, Michelle Wolf, and called it even worse than Meyers’ “weak performance.” Meyers cheekily responded by commemorating the “anniversary.”

At the annual dinner seven years ago, Meyers, then the head writer and Weekend Update anchor on “Saturday Night Live,” cracked a string of jokes aimed at Trump. TV cameras repeatedly cut to a stone-faced Trump, who was among the crowd at the event.

“The Apprentice” host had spent much of that year promulgating the birther conspiracy theory, raising doubts without evidence about whether then-President Barack Obama had been born in the U.S. Trump was among those demanding that Obama produce a copy of his birth certificate.

Meyers pilloried Trump, lobbing jab after jab.

Donald Trump has been saying he will run for president as a Republican, which is surprising, since I just assumed he was running as a joke.

Donald Trump owns the Miss USA pageant, which is great for Republicans because it will streamline their search for a vice president.

Donald Trump often appears on Fox, which is ironic because a fox often appears on Donald Trump’s head.

Donald Trump said recently he has ‘a great relationship with the blacks,’ but unless ‘the Blacks’ are a family of white people, I bet he is mistaken.

That evening, Obama himself also roasted Trump, joking about the birther conspiracy by playing his “birth video” ― a clip from Disney’s “The Lion King.”

Like Meyers, he also mocked Trump.

Just recently, in an episode of “Celebrity Apprentice,” at the steakhouse, the men’s cooking team did not impress the judges from Omaha Steaks.

And there was a lot of blame to go around. But you, Mr. Trump, recognized that the real problem was a lack of leadership. And so, ultimately, you didn’t blame Lil’ Jon or Meatloaf. You fired Gary Busey. And these are the kind of decisions that would keep me up at night.

During Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, some of his allies conjectured that the 2011 dinner instilled a sense of bitterness and fury that propelled him to seriously mount his presidential bid, after many years of teasing the idea of a run.

As Omarosa Manigault Newman, former “Apprentice” contestant and later (briefly) a White House official in Trump’s administration, told PBS’ “Frontline” in 2016:

It just kept going and going, and he just kept hammering him. And I thought, “Oh, Barack Obama is starting something that I don’t know if he’ll be able to finish.”

Trump adviser and confidant Roger Stone said: “I think that is the night that he resolves to run for president. I think that he is kind of motivated by it. ‘Maybe I’ll just run. Maybe I’ll show them all.’”

Before Trump’s political rise, Meyers’ appearance was perhaps most remembered for a joke about Osama bin Laden hiding in plain sight by hosting a show on C-SPAN.

Little did the public know that Obama had just authorized a military raid targeting bin Laden. The next evening, he announced in a nationally televised address that Navy Seals had killed the terrorist leader in Pakistan.

Meyers himself has reflected on that infamous dinner and the role that he may have played in getting Trump to the White House.

“I made fun of him in 2011. That’s the night he decided to run. I kicked the hornet’s nest,” he joked on fellow late night host Jimmy Fallon’s show last year. “It’s not the outcome I wanted, but that’s history. I got a man elected president. I want my points.”

For the most part, Meyers, who has made sharp analysis of Trump a central part of his “Late Night” show has said that he does not regret the gibes he directed at the future president that night.

“I want to make it very clear, I still very much enjoyed that evening and I do recollect it very fondly,” he told CNN last year. “It’s weird that people have made that case that [the jokes targeting Trump] spurred him to run, but I’ve always made it clear that I would be more angry had I said less about him as opposed to having any regrets about anything I said, joke-wise.”

Earlier this year, as host of the Golden Globe Awards, Meyers attempted to make amends, of sorts.

“In 2011, I told some jokes about our current president at the White House Correspondents’ dinner, jokes about how he was unqualified to be president. Some have said that night convinced him to run,” Meyers said in his opening monologue. “So if that’s true, I just want to say: Oprah, you will never be president! You do not have what it takes! And [Tom] Hanks, where’s Hanks? You will never be vice president.”

“Now we just wait and see,” Meyers quipped.

Trump has dismissed the theory that the dinner played a role in his presidential run, claiming that he enjoyed the evening — despite the cameras capturing his overt displeasure.

“It’s such a false narrative. I had a phenomenal time. I had a great evening,” he told The Washington Post in 2016.

He added that he felt “honored” by Obama’s jokes and that the then-president “delivered them well.”

But of Meyers, Trump said: “I didn’t like his routine. His was too nasty, out of order.” 

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