Five notable jabs and jokes cracked by historian Ron Chernow at the White House correspondents' dinner

This year's White House Correspondents' Association (WHCA) dinner lacked a comedian, but the audience of journalists was still laughing on Saturday night as historian Ron Chernow cracked jokes about President TrumpDonald TrumpPredictions of disaster for Democrats aren't guarantees of midterm failure A review of President Biden's first year on border policy  Hannity after Jan. 6 texted McEnany 'no more stolen election talk' in five-point plan for Trump MORE, the administration and the state of politics. 

Chernow was invited to speak at the dinner after comedian Michelle Wolf's jokes about Trump administration officials — most notably White House press secretary Sarah HuckabeeSarah SandersHow Biden should sell his infrastructure bill Trump expected to resume rallies in June Andrew Giuliani planning run for New York governor MORE Sanders — became the subject of controversy last year.

WHCA President Olivier Knox characterized this year's dinner as a "reset" that aimed for a more muted evening with Chernow, who wrote the biography of Alexander Hamilton that inspired the hit Broadway musical. Still, Trump and the White House boycotted the event.


While guests were unsure of what to expect from Chernow ahead of his speech — which marks the first time in decades that a comedian has not hosted the event — the night ended with a standing ovation for his surprising and unique mixture of history lesson and roast. 

Here are five of Chernow's most notable jokes and jabs from the evening.


1. When he joked former President Washington should have read 'The Art of the Deal'

"As best I can tell, Washington committed only one major blunder as president: He failed to put his name on Mount Vernon and thereby bungled an early opportunity at branding. Clearly deficient in the art of the deal, the poor man had to settle for the lowly title of 'Father of his Country.'"

Chernow's comment alluded to Trump's book "The Art of the Deal" and came a month after Politico reported that Trump once said during a tour of Washington's home, "If he was smart, he would’ve put his name on it."

2. His jab at Trump's comments on immigration

While talking about Alexander Hamilton at one point in his speech, Chernow referenced Trump's recent comments that the U.S. is "full" and can no longer accept any more immigrants. 

"The system is full. We can’t take you anymore," Trump said earlier this month, adding that for both "illegal immigration" and "asylum," the answer is "I’m sorry. We’re full."

Chernow joked that Hamilton, who came to the American colonies from Nevis, was lucky he arrived before the present era.

Hamilton was "an immigrant who arrived, thank God, before the country was full," Chernow joked. "Frankly, I don't know why they let the guy in. Clearly, someone slipped up at the southern border."


3. Chernow's defense of journalists and how Trump could get on Mount Rushmore

"Campaigns against the press don’t get your face carved into the rocks of Mount Rushmore, for when you chip away at the press, you chip away at our democracy," Chernow said at the dinner Saturday.

He made the comment as he spoke about Trump's and other presidents' relationships with the press. Chernow's reference to Mount Rushmore also appeared to be a subtle jab at Trump floating the idea that he could one day be on the U.S. landmark.

"Now here’s what I do. I’d ask whether or not you someday think I will be on Mount Rushmore," Trump said at a rally in 2017. "But here’s the problem: If I did it joking, totally joking, having fun, the fake news media will say, 'He believes he should be on Mount Rushmore.' So I won’t say it. OK? I won’t say it."


4. When Chernow gave the 'real' reason Trump and the White House were boycotting the event

Shortly after taking the stage, Chernow cracked jokes about Trump's decision not to have any administration officials attend the dinner.

The main theory, Chernow said, was that there was a rumor going around that the host had the full copy of special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) MuellerAn unquestioning press promotes Rep. Adam Schiff's book based on Russia fiction Senate Democrats urge Garland not to fight court order to release Trump obstruction memo Why a special counsel is guaranteed if Biden chooses Yates, Cuomo or Jones as AG MORE's final report. 

"As you all know, on Tuesday the president let it be known that he wanted members of his administration to stay away from this dinner. And at first, I was puzzled by this news, but then I learned a rumor was circulating in Washington that I was going to be reading from the redacted sections of the Mueller report and everything was explained," Chernow joked.  

The final report from the special counsel's Russia probe has been hotly debated in recent days, and many are calling to receive a version without the redactions. 


5. His final remark: A Mark Twain quote comparing politicians to diapers

"As we head into election season, I leave you with one last gem from [Mark] Twain: 'Politicians and diapers must be changed often and for the same reason.'"

Update: While Chernow attributed the quote, "Politicians and diapers must be changed often and for the same reason" to Mark Twain, further reports have said there is no evidence Mark Twain said this.