BALTIMORE — If House Democrats were worried they’d be roasted and ridiculed by “Daily Show” host Trevor Noah, they all got to breathe a big sigh of relief Friday when the comedian delivered a goodnatured closing speech at the party’s annual retreat in Baltimore.
The Comedy Central star recounted the discrimination he faced as a biracial child growing up in apartheid-era South Africa, according to sources in the room who asked to remain anonymous. Noah told members that he “grew up a crime” as a result of his race and faced constant discrimination.
Noah poked fun at Republican presidential candidates, including Donald Trump, whom he compared to an African dictator. He made a quick joke about Hillary Clinton’s ongoing email scandal. One thing he didn’t do: skewer the Democrats in the room.
The soft-touch treatment was well received by members as they closed out their annual three-day policy and strategy session. Members heard earlier in the day from AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka and billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer.
“Not only did he hit it out of the park; he hit it out of the stadium,” House Democratic Caucus Chairman Xavier Becerra (D-Calif.) said of Noah. “He said he loves our theme United for Opportunity and also sees its significance written backwards: as an opportunity to be united.”
Members and aides left the session upbeat, including Rep. Mark Takai (D-Hawaii), who left the session early to receive chemotherapy treatment at nearby Johns Hopkins hospital. Takai was diagnosed in October with pancreatic cancer.
“Having chemo treatment and Trevor Noah this morning are two doses of the best medicine,” Takai said.
Takai openly talked about his cancer several times during the retreat, including a frank discussion of the challenges of his treatment and illness during a closed-door session on Thursday with Vice President Biden.
During the Thursday session Takai asked Biden for a hug and thanked him for chairing a new White House task force to combat cancer that was announced by President Obama in his State of the Union address earlier this month. Several Democrats emotionally recounted the exchange and spoke of Takai’s battle.
Noah also made an impression on some fans in the audience. More than a few aides and members also mentioned that the television star’s dimples and smile were a welcome addition to the event.