Obama ridicules Trump at Correspondents’ dinner, mocks ‘birther’ crusade

Rachel Rose Hartman
The Ticket

After weeks of keeping his thoughts about Donald Trump largely to himself, President Obama on Saturday night ridiculed the real estate magnate in front of a live televised audience at the annual White House Correspondents' Association dinner in Washington, D.C.

As Trump and wife Melania sat among the guests gathered at the Washington Hilton, Obama poked fun at Trump's reality show, said Trump lacked the "credentials" to be president, and mocked the businessman's recent crusade to get Obama to release his long-form birth certificate.

"I know that he's taken some flack lately," Obama said of Trump. "But no one is happier, no one is prouder to put this birth certificate matter to rest than The Donald."

But then the president quickly changed gears. "And that's because he can finally get back to focusing on the issues that matter, like--did we fake the moon landing? What really happened in Roswell? And where are  Biggie and Tupac?" Obama said, referencing rap icons Biggie Smalls and Tupac Shakur.

You can watch Obama's 19-minute speech in its entirety below:

But Obama didn't stop at making light of the mutual infatuation of Trump and the birther movement.

The president next mocked Trump's background, saying, "All kidding aside. Obviously we all know about your credentials and breadth of experience," a dig at Trump's political background that evoked laughter from the audience of journalists, politicians and celebrities.

Obama then chose to reference a recent episode of "Celebrity Apprentice" that featured Trump, the star of the program, firing actor Gary Busey instead of singer Meatloaf and rapper Lil Jon in an Omaha Steak challenge. "And these are the kind of decisions that would keep me up at night," Obama said as the audience roared with laughter and applause. "Well handled, sir. Well handled."

It's typical for the speeches at the annual dinner to play out as a roast, poking fun at the self-importance of the national political scene. But Obama's lampooning of Trump and the birther crusade held special significance, since the Correspondents Dinner festivities marked the first time the president and Trump were in the same room since Trump began his highly publicized campaign to get Obama to release his birth certificate.

The president made fun of the controversy, saying that he was prepared to "go a step further."

"Tonight, for the first time, I am releasing my official birth video," he told the audience. But then he played a clip of lion Simba's birth in Disney's cartoon movie The Lion King.

"I want to make clear to the Fox News table--that was a joke," the president said of the Disney clip.

Obama also made some jokes at his own expense, noting how his "honeymoon" as president was over and referencing the perception that he's too professorial and arrogant. At the star-studded gala, he also paused to note that he's even losing support from Hollywood—a mainstay of fundraising for the president's 2008 campaign. (Though he dinged actor Matt Damon for the celebrity's recent criticism, saying "Matt, I just saw 'The Adjustment Bureau,' so right back at you, buddy.")

Obama also joked about starting conspiracy theories about his potential 2012 opponents: Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) was born in Canada; Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty has the middle name "Hosni"; Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman is Chinese; and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney passed universal health care. (The last allegation, of course, falls into the "funny because it's true" category, since Romney had presided over the passage of a state-level version of the same individual-mandate plan that Obama signed into law in 2010.)

The light-hearted evening was interspersed with more serious matters. The Correspondents Association issued awards students and journalists for their achievements, while also honoring journalists abroad who have lost their lives or faced grave physical hazards in the course of their work.

But that didn't mean journalists were spared any ridicule Saturday night.

The evening's celebrity host Seth Meyers, "Saturday Night Live" writer and star, mocked some of the industry's best-known faces.

"Katie [Couric] was known best for asking those tough questions like, 'name a newspaper," Meyers said, referencing Couric's 2008 interview with Sarah Palin. "Years of hard-hitting questions, and she's going to be remembered for the one that could have doubled as a category on 'The Family Feud.' "

On Juan Williams, the NPR journalist fired after saying he gets nervous on a plane when he sees people dressed in "Muslim garb," Meyers said, "so Juan is black and afraid of Muslims, making him the least likely man to get a cab in New York City."

But some of Meyers most biting remarks were reserved for 2012 hopefuls and the president himself.

Meyers suggested Romney's book "No Apologies" actually indicated Romney made many mistakes. "If I come home from a trip to Vegas and the first thing I say to my girlfriend is 'no apologies,' we're gonna have a follow up conversation," Meyers quipped.

Meyers made fun of Trump's hair, likening it to a fox that would be happy to finish the leftovers at his table, said Pawlenty makes Al Gore look like drag queen RuPaul, and joked that Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) and son Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) have something in common with Meyers and his own father: "we're also not going to get elected president."

Meyers also took a few digs at Obama.

"Who knows if they can beat you in 2012?" Meyers said of the potential GOP field. "But I'll tell you who can definitely beat you, Mr. President--2008 Barack Obama," he said, standing feet from the commander-in-chief as the audience roared with laughter. "You would have loved him--so charismatic, so charming. Was he a little too idealistic? Maybe. But you would have loved him."

And Meyers also took note of the toll the presidency has apparently taken on the president's appearance. Meyers said the First Lady looked even more beautiful at Saturday's dinner than she did on Inauguration Day 2009. "But you, Mr. President have aged a little," Meyers said. "What happened to you? When you were sworn in you looked like the guy from the Old Spice commercials. Now you look like Louis Gossett Sr.," he said, referencing 74-year-old actor Louis Gossett Jr.

"Maybe you should start smoking again," Meyers said. "If your hair gets any whiter, the tea party is going to endorse it."

(Photo of Obama: Martin H. Simon-Pool/Getty Images)