Journalists gathered in Washington, D.C., Saturday night for the annual White House Correspondents’ Dinner, and they all had a good laugh at President Donald Trump’s expense.
But actor, comedian, and economist Ben Stein said Sunday that the media should be laughing at themselves — not the president, who decided to skip the gala and instead host a campaign-style rally in Pennsylvania.
“Without the media, he would still be back running casinos somewhere,” he told CNN’s Ana Cabrera. “He has played the media fantastically well. The media is not his enemy.
“He has cleverly made the media his main ally, and the media is laughing as if they think they’re somebody great and holy and neutral and above it all,” he continued. “They’re not above it all.”
In his intense broadside against the mainstream media, Stein called the press corps a “joke” and a “sharp instrument of the left” constantly “attacking” Trump. Stein made his remarks after Cabrera played a few clips of comedian Hasan Minhaj, who headlined the Correspondents' Dinner, calling Trump the “liar in chief” and joking that Russian President Vladimir Putin was actually the U.S. president.
“I thought what Mr. Minhaj said was sickening,” said Stein, who later noted that he’s “not a huge fan” of Trump. “Frankly, I felt like vomiting, and I couldn’t watch it for very long.”
Cabrera, clearly perplexed by Stein’s disapproval, asked why Stein would have such a harsh opinion of journalists.
“I think it’s stunning to belittle and attack and mock a president at such a base and villainous level and to describe him as a Soviet agent and ‘liar-in-chief,’ especially to the media — the media is a joke in this situation,” Stein said, adding that it was the media who on the campaign trail “built him up.”
He went on to say Trump has been able to make the media “the bad guys out there in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin and places he was never expected to win.”
“They should be laughing at themselves,” he told Cabrera, “not laughing at him.”
The CNN anchor defended the media, pointing to the fact that several past presidents have had contentious relationships with the press. Regardless, she said it is up to reporters “to hold government — elected officials — accountable.”
Stein didn’t seem to have a problem with holding the president accountable, but he did take issue with what he sees as a constant barrage against Trump’s administration.
“Every day’s newspaper has got more stories attacking him, attacking him, attacking him,” he said. “They just don’t give the guy a break.”
For his part, Trump was too busy making fun of reporters in front of a crowd of supporters to be bothered with what was happening at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner on Capitol Hill.
“You may know there’s another big gathering taking place in Washington, D.C. Did you hear about it?” the president asked Saturday night. “A large group of Hollywood actors and Washington media are consoling each other in a hotel ballroom in our nation’s capital right now.
“I could not possibly be more thrilled than to be more than 100 miles away from Washington’s swamp,” he continued. “Spending my evening with all of you and with a much, much larger crowd, and much better people, right?”