House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) made a number of jokes at President Trump’s expense Thursday, mocking the president and his White House staff in front of New York’s elite at the white-tie Al Smith charity dinner — and predicted negative coverage from Breitbart News.
“Everyone will report what happened here tonight differently. Breitbart will lead with ‘Ryan slams the president amongst liberal elites,’ he said, according to NBC News. The New York Times will report, ‘Ryan defends the President in a state Hillary won.’ And the president will tweet, ‘300,000 at Al Smith dinner cheer mention of my name.'”
In what the Times referred to as a “spirited” 17-minute performance by the establishment Republican, Ryan covered subjects including Hillary Clinton and Harvey Weinstein but saved his “edgiest zingers” for his supposed ally in the White House.
“The truth is the press misunderstands and never records the big accomplishments of the White House,” Ryan said, according to the Times. “Look at all the jobs that the president has created. Just among the White House staff!”
“Enough with the applause,” he quipped at another moment in the speech. “You sound like the cabinet when Donald Trump walks into the room.”
Ryan kept his distance from Trump during the 2016 campaign and condemned various things Trump said, but has appeared to try to draw closer to the president since his victory in November.
At the dinner, Ryan hinted that prior claims not to have seen controversial tweets by President Trump were false.
“Every morning I wake up in my office and I scroll through Twitter to see which tweets I will have to pretend I didn’t see later on,” he added. “Every afternoon former Speaker John Boehner calls me up, not to give advice, just to laugh.”
During the speech, he mocked Trump’s history of donating to Democrats. “I know why Chuck [Schumer (D-NY)] has been so hard on President Trump. It’s not ideological. Chuck is just mad he lost his top donor.” About Breitbart News Executive Chairman Steve Bannon, Ryan said, “Steve Bannon said I was born in a petri dish at the Heritage Foundation. This is amazing — no one knew Steve believed in science.”
According to the Times, Schumer and fellow New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand were scheduled to attend but were missing due to a budget vote in Washington, D.C. However, liberal Mayor Bill de Blasio, Democratic Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, and former Mayors Michael R. Bloomberg and David N. Dinkins attended, along with Catholic leaders and local dignitaries, including Cardinal Timothy Dolan.
Ryan also made reference to Trump’s tense speech at the dinner last year, where he took a number of scathing shots at Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.
“I know last year at this dinner Donald Trump offended some people with his comments, which critics said went too far. Some said it was unbecoming of a public figure and that his comments were offensive. … Well, thank God he’s learned his lesson.”
Although many of his jokes were leveled at Trump, Ryan did land at least one clean hit of his own on Clinton, mocking her over her new campaign post-mortem released last month.
“I got Hillary’s new book. This sums up today’s politics perfectly. She took eight months, writing 10 hours a day, to explain what happened in 512 pages,” Ryan said. “The president explained it in a tweet. #IWon.”
Adam Shaw is a Breitbart News politics reporter based in New York. Follow Adam on Twitter: @AdamShawNY