ABC News’ Jonathan Karl said “one of the stranger things I ever experienced” involved former President Donald Trump wanting to be begged to attend the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner.
Karl, on the latest episode of The Daily Beast podcast “The New Abnormal,” recalled a “rather bizarre” Oval Office exchange with the then-president that happened in early March 2020.
Karl was the association’s president at the time and hadn’t invited Trump to the April 25 annual bash that traditionally gathers together journalists and newsmakers.
“I was unsure if I was going to invite him,” said Karl, author of “Betrayal: The Final Act Of The Trump Show,” which contains multiple bombshell revelations about the last days of the Trump White House.
“On the one hand, every president since Warren Harding had gone to a White House Correspondents’ dinner and had always been invited,” Karl said. “Trump was the only one who hadn’t been there (as president) yet. But on the other hand, he had declared the press the enemy of the people. And did we really want to have him at the dinner?”
According to Karl, Trump entered the Oval Office, and it was clear “he wants me to beg him to come. And I’m not going to do that.”
Trump kept “suggesting that he is very open to coming and all I say is, ‘Look, if you decide to come, you know, that’s fine. We’ll welcome you. If you decide not to come, we will respect that decision.’ But I’m not gonna even like ― I haven’t even asked,” Karl recalled.
Then came an even weirder turn.
Karl said Trump turned to Associated Press White House reporter Zeke Miller, who was vice president of the correspondents’ association at the time, and, adopting a false voice halfway through, said: “Jonathan, what is it with him? He’s like my son. ‘Do you love your father? I don’t know. Well of course, he loves his father.’ Kids.”
“That’s exactly what he said,” recounted Karl. “At first, for a flash, I thought he was comparing me to Don Jr. But no, he was comparing me to Barron.”
It was “rather bizarre,” he added.
“Saturday Night Live” star Kenan Thompson was set to host the correspondents’ dinner that year with comedian Hasan Minhaj as the featured entertainer. But, as it was, the event was postponed twice and then canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Listen to Karl’s comments from the 32:20 point below: