It came as a small surprise that US President Donald Trump had opted out of 2017's White House Correspondents' Dinner following his longstanding spat with the media. What turned out to be a bigger surprise was the WHCA's choice for host this year.

In what looks to be a message targeted at the Trump administration, the organisation, which represents the White House press corps, announced on 11 April (Tuesday) that it has elected comedian Hasan Minhaj to host the evening.

"I am thrilled that Hasan will serve as our featured entertainer at this year's White House Correspondents' Dinner," said Jeff Mason, WHCA president and White House Correspondent for Reuters. "Hasan's smarts, big heart and passion for press freedom make him the perfect fit for our event, which will be focused on the First Amendment and the importance of a robust and independent media."

Minhaj's response to the selection hints at the tone his helming of the event will take. "It is a tremendous honour to be a part of such a historic event even though the president has chosen not to attend this year. SAD!" he said, borrowing from Trump's style of tweeting. "Now more than ever, it is vital that we honour the First Amendment and the freedom of the press."

The 31-year-old political science graduate currently features as a senior correspondent on Comedy Central's The Daily Show with Trevor Noah.

Born in California, the Muslim funny man is a son of Indian immigrants. He documents his experience being part of an immigrant family in the US through his one-man show, Homecoming King. The project is expected to release on Netflix later this year.

Minhaj has not shied away from shooting political barbs and in the past, referring to Trump as a "racist Cheeto" and "white Isis". During his stint as host of the annual Radio and Television Correspondents Dinner in June 2016, he also compared Hillary Clinton to broccoli.

Watch Hasan Minaj discuss immigration policy with Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau:

The comedian may be required to temper his political comments during his performance at the WHCD on 29 April. With Trump and most of his administration opting to skip the dinner, Mason said a heavily critical rhetoric could come across as unfair. At the same time, he acknowledged that a safe performance could turn the night into a boring affair.

He told MSNBC's Morning Joe that he was not looking for a host who would "roast the president in absentia".

"That's not fair, and that's not the message that we want to get across," he said.

"I was looking for someone who is funny and entertaining because I want the dinner to be something that people enjoy attending," Mason told Politico. "I think that can be done along with giving a message that is consistent with our values, and of upholding the First Amendment, and I think Hasan is in a really good position to do that."