UPDATED with video: It was wise of President Donald Trump not to attend last Saturday’s White House Correspondents’ Dinner, NBC News Meet The Press host Chuck Todd told Conan O’Brien on Monday night.
Conan, who has performed at the gig, said it’s the first time in his memory POTUS has not been in attendance. Trump announced in February he was giving it a pass – the first president since Ronald Reagan to miss the event. Reagan was hospitalized after an assassination attempt the year he did not attend.
Trump’s decision was “wise,” Todd insisted, reminding Conan of the infamous 2011 dinner when President Barack Obama was killing in the room, mocking Trump over the whole birther thing while “killing bin Laden at the same time.”
Conan noted lore that dinner roasting was what motivated Trump to run for POTUS, while suggesting that tale might be too tall.
“And yet, at this point, as believable as anything” about Trump’s successful White House bid, Todd noted.
The newsman said he understands why Trump decided to give this year’s WHCD a pass. “He’s not good at self-deprecation…He does not know how to do that. If you don’t know how to do that, don’t do it.”
And, Todd, acknowledged, Trump won the optics that night. On one screen, viewers on Saturday saw Trump at a rally in Harrisburg, PA – a state he had not been expected to win in November. On the other screen, a bunch of Washington journalists “and we’re in black tie.”
“He won the split screen,” Todd acknowledged.