"This was the night Barack Obama publicly embarrassed Donald Trump," Christie writes of the 2011 White House Correspondents' Association dinner at which Christie had a "ringside seat"
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US President Barack Obama
Barack Obama at the 2011 White House Correspondents' Dinner
| Credit: Martin H. Simon-Pool/Getty

Five years before he won the presidency and became one of the most powerful people on the planet, Donald Trump was just a reality-TV famous real estate mogul from New York who had been spreading criticisms and conspiracies about then-President Barack Obama.

One of those theories — that Obama wasn't born in the United States — came back to haunt him in infamous fashion, after Obama released his birth certificate and roasted Trump for his role in the so-called "birther" movement at the 2011 White House Correspondents' Association dinner.

Chris Christie was in the room where it happened.

The former New Jersey governor writes in his new book, Republican Rescue: Saving the Party from Truth Deniers, Conspiracy Theorists, and the Dangerous Policies of Joe Biden, about being in attendance at the April 30, 2011, event at the Washington Hilton.

The dinner — traditionally an event in which the president offers good-hearted jabs at the journalists who cover him and other D.C. notables — was held just three days after Obama released his long-form birth certificate, a document Trump had repeatedly insisted didn't exist.

That Trump himself was in the audience when Obama took the stage meant that the businessman was a prime target for much of the night's humor.

It was a spotlight, according to observers, that Trump did not relish.

"I was right there when it happened," Christie, 59, writes. "I had a clear view of the faces of the two combatants. I witnessed every brutal knife twist and every painful grimace."

Trump
Donald Trump talks with other guests at the White House Correspondents' Association dinner in 2011
| Credit: Joshua Roberts/Bloomberg via Getty

As Christie, now an ABC News contributor, notes in his book: "It was a big room, but I had a prime ringside seat. This was the night Barack Obama publicly embarrassed Donald Trump."

"Donald Trump is here tonight," Obama said in his five-minute routine. "And I know he has taken some flak lately. But no one is happier, no one prouder, to put this birth certificate to rest than the Donald. And that's because he can finally get back to focusing on the issues that matter like, Did we fake the moon landing? What really happened in Roswell? And where are Biggie and Tupac?"

Christie writes that Obama was "mocking the baseless charge by comparing it to the most discredited conspiracy theories and pinning it on its loudest voice. The whole room, 2,600 journalists and Washington power brokers, Republicans and Democrats alike, howled in laughter."

The famously thin-skinned Trump, meanwhile, "was staring straight ahead. He was rocking back and forth in his chair. He still didn't break a smile," according to Christie.

The moment, Christie writes, "was fascinating and excruciating all at once" and Obama "showed no mercy on Donald Trump."

Christie continues: "I can say this much: I spoke to Donald after the dinner. He was pissed off like I'd never seen him before. Just beside himself with fury."

The merciless mocking of Trump that night would continue when comedian Seth Myers took the stage to say, among other things, "Donald Trump has been saying that he will run for president as a Republican — which is surprising, since I just assumed that he was running as a joke."

In the years since the 2011 dinner, some have speculated that the many jokes lobbed in Trump's direction that night ultimately led him to run for office.

As The Washington Post's Roxanne Roberts wrote in April 2016, however: "This narrative flies in the face of actual history: Trump mentioned running for president as far back as the 1980s, so the notion that this dinner was the single catalyst for this presidential campaign is absurd."