Biden boasts Trump, GOP, at reporters’ dinner

The annual White House press gala returned on Saturday night with Washington buzz, journalists reported and the man at the top: President Joe Biden.

The White House Correspondents Association dinner, on the sidelines of the pandemic in 2020 and 2021, featured Biden as the first president in six years to accept the invitation. Donald Trump shunned the event while in office.

“Imagine if my predecessor came to this dinner this year,” Biden told an audience of 2,600, among them journalists, government officials and celebrities. “Now that would actually be a real coup.”

The president took the opportunity to test his sense of humour, shedding light on criticisms he has faced during his 15 months in office while targeting his predecessor, the Republican Party and members of the public. newspapers.

“I’m really excited to be here tonight with the only group of Americans with an approval rating lower than mine,” Biden said in front of a Hilton ballroom filled with members of the media.

Biden also shed light on the “Let’s Go Brandon” slogan, which has become a right-wing stance to revile the president.

“Republicans seem to support one person, someone named Brandon,” Biden said, triggering a burst of laughter in the crowd. “He’s having a really good year. I’m happy for him.”

As for the GOP roast, he said, “I can’t say anything about the GOP that Kevin McCarthy hasn’t put on the tape yet.”

He also had a poke at Fox News. “I know there are a lot of questions about whether we should gather here tonight because of COVID. Well, we’re here to show the whole country that we’re getting through this pandemic. Plus , people have to show they’re fully vaccinated and motivated,” Biden said. “Just contact your favorite Fox News reporter. They’re all here. Vaccinated and boosted.”

In addition to speeches by Biden and comedian Trevor Noah, the hour-long event featured skits by talk-show host James Corden, comedian Bill Eichner and even Biden himself.

“Thanks for having me here,” Noah told Biden. “And I was a bit confused as to why me, but then I was told that you get the highest approval rating when a biracial African guy stands next to you.”

While much of the speech was filled with sarcasm, Biden noted the important role the press has played in American democracy, especially over the past decade.

“I want to say this from the bottom of my heart that you, the free press, are more important than what you did in the last century,” he said. “You are the defenders of the truth.”

The dinner contained other serious moments, with a tribute to pioneering black journalists and aspiring student reporters as well as a dedication to journalists incarcerated, injured or killed. during coverage of Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine.

The premier event for the media in Washington, the reporters dinner brought together Washington journalists like CNN’s Jake Tapper and MSNBC’s Joy-Ann Reid with celebrities Kim Kardashian, Pete Davidson, Brooke Shields , Caitlyn Jenner, Drew Barrymore and Martha Stewart. Among the numerous government officials and other prominent figures was Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

Accompanied by the first lady, the president arrived at the event while trying to strike a careful balance with a nation weary of the pandemic but facing a surge in infections. The ongoing national threat is close to home for the president: Vice President Kamala Harris tested positive last week and Dr Anthony Fauci skipped dinner as a health precaution.

The United States experienced a spike in COVID-19 cases from a highly contagious sub-variant of omicron, with the number of confirmed infections rising to about 44,000 a day, up from 26,000 a month ago . However, the number of deaths and hospitalizations from the virus is near, or at a pandemic low, with variant BA.2 proving to be less severe than previous strains of the virus.

Following the recent Gridiron Club press party in Washington, dozens of attendees, including members of Congress, Biden’s Cabinet and journalists, tested positive for COVID-19. The White House Correspondents Association said it was requesting same-day antigen testing of those who attended its dinner even before the Gridiron outbreak, then added a vaccination requirement.

Biden, 79, decided to skip the meal but will appear later to join the show. While he was due to wear a mask when he didn’t speak, a president without a mask greeted the award winners on dais and could be seen smiling widely throughout the dinner show.

The Correspondents’ Dinner debuted in 1921. Three years later, Calvin Coolidge became the first president to attend, and all did, except for Trump. However, Jimmy Carter and Richard Nixon chose not to attend every year of their presidency, and Reagan, then recovering from an assassination attempt, missed the 1981 portion – but was called from Camp David .

“What I think this shows is the healing of the relationship,” says Harold Holzer, author of “The President vs. The Press” and director of the Roosevelt House Public Policy Institute at Hunter College in New York, said before the dinner. “It still has thorns, there are still tense moments. But that’s okay.”

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