Conan O’Brien Slams Republicans, Democrats, the Press at WHCD

-By Warner Todd Huston

Typical of when a Democrat is president, during a keynote monologue at the White House Correspondents Dinner (WHCD), the President is spared from too many mean spirited barbs. In keeping with that tradition, TBS’ Conan O’Brien poked a lot of fun at Republicans and conservatives with a bit sharper stick than he used to poke Democrats.

This year’s WHCD started with a slew of media outlets discussing the now annual slam on the event as delivered by long-time Washington reporter Tom Brokaw. The semi-retired NBC anchor has lamented for some time that the whole party atmosphere, replete with musicians and Hollywood celebrities–fittingly, this year the Duck Dynasty folks attended–makes a mockery of the seriousness of the media’s work.

After the President delivered his spiel on Saturday night, late night comedian Conan O’Brien took the stage to deliver the keynote address.

Unsurprisingly, Republicans showed up early as the comedian’s targets and naturally, even though he hasn’t been in office for over four years, now, an obligatory slam of George W. Bush as “stupid” had to be delivered.

Near the top of his address Conan mentioned the opening of the George W. Bush Presidential Library joking that the library had “Millions of books, articles and documents and if you go you can be the first to read them.”

Attacks on the NRA, Mitt Romney and Republicans were peppered throughout the monologue. There was also more than one attack on Governor Chris Christie. One went: “someone accidentally sat Chris Christie with the Republicans, very awkward.”

Being that it was a gathering of press folk, there were hits on the media, as well.

In one of his more mean spirited slaps, Conan hit Fox News saying, “If the Fox table” is laughing it means that “a little girl fell off her bike.”

The print media took a few shots, too. O’Brien’s theme for print media was that it was a dead business. “Some say the print media is dying and I don’t believe it. And neither does my blacksmith,” Conan said.

Interestingly, showing the animus that the progressive media establishment harbors for him of late, when O’Brien mentioned legendary journalist Bob Woodward of the Washington Post, very few people applauded even though Conan urged them to do so.

O’Brien went on to lampoon CNN’s low ratings. “CNN is watched by the cleaning people that clean the offices at CNN,” he said.

Unlike when Republicans hold the White House and they are ripe for attack from the podium, O’Brien mostly gave the President a pass. And the jokes he did deliver were mild.

One zinger launched toward Obama, though, was particularly pointed. As Conan addressed President Obama’s aging in office, he said, “Seriously Mr. President, your hair is so white it could be a member of your cabinet.”

In a room of people who are particularly keen on “diversity,” that joke hit home and elicited quite a few groans from the audience. The groans were so loud that Conan was even drawn to say, “what the hell was that?”

Speaking of diversity, Conan made an amusing analogy of those in the room.

“But as I look around the room and see all the media here tonight I realize this is all just one big high school cafeteria. That’s all it is. Think about it. Fox is the jocks. MSNBC is the nerds. Bloggers are the Goths. NPR is the table for kids with peanut allergies. Al Jazeera is the weird foreign exchange student nobody talks to. And print media, I didn’t forget you. You are the poor kid who died sophomore year in a car crash. Yeah. Cheer up, we dedicate the year book to you.”

O’Brien did hit some Democrats. Harry Reid, John Kerry, and Joe Biden were targets of a few barbs.

Certainly O’Brien knows how to deliver a well-timed monologue and this appearance was no exception. It was amusing, brisk, and hit at many targets. There was only one total clunker of a joke and it was one Conan himself noted that he was not very fond of in the first place.

When mentioning the Duck Dynasty folks, he said “Guys I don’t think your Streisand whistle will… oh, my god it worked, she’s here! It’s incredible.” After only a few scattered laughs were heard, Conan lamented, “I always hated that one.”

In the end, even though he was a bit heavier handed on Republicans than Democrats–he essentially called Paul Ryan a racist at one point–his time at the podium did not offend as much as that of past keynote speakers.

To break it down with a joke count, Conan made fun of Republicans, conservatives, and Fox News a total of 30 times. Hits on Democrats and lefty news outlets (which is everyone but Fox News) counted to 45. And jokes that were non-political, such as those on the Hilton Hotel, amounted to 9.

“The only end of writing is to enable the reader better to enjoy life, or better to endure it.”
–Samuel Johnson

Warner Todd Huston is a Chicago based freelance writer. He has been writing opinion editorials and social criticism since early 2001 and before that he wrote articles on U.S. history for several small American magazines. His political columns are featured on many websites such as Andrew Breitbart’s,, and, as well as,,,,, among many, many others. Mr. Huston is also endlessly amused that one of his articles formed the basis of an article in Germany’s Der Spiegel Magazine in 2008.

For a full bio, please CLICK HERE.

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