The White House Correspondents Dinner returned after two years of Covid-19 restrictions. It was the first annual party to actually be attended by the sitting POTUS since 2016, with more than 2,000 guests in attendance. Trevor Noah of the Daily Show headlined the star studded event, MSNBC reported.
The dinner for reporters, officials and celebrities began around 8 pm at the Washington Hilton on Saturday. President Biden made history as the first sitting President attending the event in over 6 years as his predecessor Donald Trump did not attend the dinner while in office. "Special thanks to the 42 percent of you that actually applauded," Biden said as he took the stage, "I'm really excited to be here tonight with the only group of Americans with a lower approval rating than I have."
The president attended the formal event and the entertainment but had skipped the dinner due to Covid risks. His 14-minute speech began with a reference to former president Trump. "This is the first time the president attended this dinner in six years. It's understandable, we had a horrible plague â followed by two years of Covid, just imagine if my predecessor came to this dinner this year, now that would have been a real coup if that occurred," he said.
Steven Portnoy, president of the White House Correspondents' Association, welcomed guests to "the biggest annual celebration of journalism, scholarship and self-effacing humor" in comments after dinner. He further added, "we are grateful for the vaccines, the therapies, the tests that make it possible for us to be here tonight. And we are pleased to have the president in attendance here with us, which restores a tradition of this dinner that dates back to Calvin Coolidge in 1924." NY post reports.
The entertainment for the evening started out with a pre-taped segment wherein The Late Late Show's James Corden played the White House press Secretary along with Jen Psaki setting the mood for the event, generating laughs by getting Fox News reporter Pete Doocy's name wrong and claiming to not know where Delaware is. Delaware is where President Biden's getaway is located.
Ahead of Noah taking the mic, President stepped in himself to steer the ship as he took several jabs at Fox News that often called upon vaccine skeptics on their channel, he said "if you're wondering if it's safe to come out, contact your favorite Fox News correspondent- they're all here, vaccinated and boosted."
He also poked fun at the 'Let's Go Brandon' internet sensation, a euphemistic expression for an obscenity directed at him. "Republicans seem to support some guy named Brandon, he's having a really good year. And I'm happy for him!" he riffed.
Resuming a return to past tradition, Noah walked onto the stage providing a comedic relief from the last dinner in 2019 when the after dinner speaker was Ron Chernow, a presidential historian. With the mention of the Gridiron Club Dinner that happened on 3rd April and resulted in a grand total of 85 guests testing positive for coronavirus, Noah began with a script taking aim at former president Trump, Florida Gov. DeSantis and a plethora of reporters.
Addressing DeSantis, he said, "If Trump was the original terminator, [Ron] DeSantis is like the T-1000. You're smarter than him, you're slicker than him, you can walk down ramps!", the Washington Post reports.
The Daily Show host also expressed his confusion on being offered to host the entertainment for the evening but then suddenly realized that President Biden receives his "highest approval ratings standing next to a biracial African guy." Mentioning the Oscars Slap, Noah said he was worried about making a mean joke about Kellyanne Conway because "then her husband would rush up on the stage andâ¦ thank me.," TVLine wrote.
Fooling around a little more with Biden, the native of South Africa said that "ever since you came into office, things are already looking up. Gas is up, rent is up, food is upâ¦. Everything." He highlighted Biden's comment about Vladimir Putin to be removed from power to be, "very upsetting to Russia â until someone explained to them that nothing that Biden wants actually gets done."
According to CBS news the black tie gala was described as an event which 'celebrates the press,' by President Biden, he concluded the evening on a rather serious note shedding light on the steady rise of misinformation. "Where the truth is buried by lies and the lies live on as truth, what's clear, and I mean this from the bottom of my heart, that you the free press, matter more than you ever did in the last century," he said.
Noah too contributed as he concluded the event talking about the importance of journalist and the need to speak truth to power. "In America you have the right to seek the truth and speak the truth, even if it makes people in power uncomfortable, even if it makes your readers and viewers uncomfortable," he emphasized. For example, "I stood here tonight and made fun of the president of the United States, and I'm going to be fine." Simultaneously seeking assurance from Biden, "I am going to be fine, right?"
The guest list for the star studded event had Kim Kardashian accompanied by SNL star Pete Davidson, Martha Stewart, Drew Barrymore, Brooke Sheilds, Caitlyn Jenner with Cabinet Secretaries, members of Congress and business executives. All these attendees had to provide a proof of vaccination along with a same-day negative COVID-19 rapid test.
According to NY Post, veteran White House reporter April Ryan of TheGrio organized a glamorous after party at the Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture. "Rush Hour" actor Chris Tucker is also set to host to a party dubbed "A Seat at the Table: A Celebration of Black Media" which have a melodious performance by nine-time Grammy Award-winning singer Mary J. Blige.
The event was without a doubt a breath of fresh air amidst the heavy tensions in Eastern Europe, however many objections were made regarding the mysterious pre-screening of reporters at the event. For reporters to attend any indoor Biden event they need to abide by the RSVP procedure of the White House which is followed by a non-transparent selection. Later names are disclosed of those allowed to attend, NY post revealed.
This time however, Biden's deputies have declined to make the selection criteria public and have proceeded to give a series of conflicting explanations to individual journalists. Several of them with reference to covid risks have left many media outlets hugely disappointed on not being allowed to attend, raising questions at President Biden sidestepping any media engagement.