‘A horrible plague, then the Covid’: Biden and correspondents joke in the post-Trump return to normality

Joe Biden celebrated the return of a flashy annual gathering of Washington’s political and media elites on Saturday with some humorous comments about Donald Trump and himself.

The US president, sporting a tuxedo and a slightly askew bow tie, spoke at the White House Correspondents Association dinner, which was canceled in 2020 and 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

It was another tentative step toward Washington norms after Trump repeatedly rejected the gala, which defends press freedom.

“This is the first time the president has attended this dinner in six years,” Biden observed. “It’s understandable. We had a horrible plague, followed by two years of Covid.”

That joke produced laughs. The next elicited laughter and groans: “Imagine if my predecessor came to this dinner this year. Now, that really would have been a real blow if that happened.”

The meeting included Secretary of State Antony Blinken and other cabinet members, as well as journalists including CNN’s Jake Tapper and MSNBC’s Joy Reid. celebrities including Kim KardashianPete DavidsonBrooke Shields and Caitlyn Jenner walked the red carpet.

The three-course dinner was held in a large and packed hotel ballroom despite the long shadow cast by the pandemic. Biden, 79, skipped the meal with the 2,600 guests, all of whom had to provide proof of vaccination and a negative test on the same day.

The event was an opportunity for the president, or more precisely his speechwriters, to flex some comedy muscle at the expense of the media, the GOP and his own ego.

He began: “Special thanks to the 42% of you who really clapped. I am so excited to be here tonight with the only group of Americans with a lower approval rating than me.”

The president mocked the hypocrisy of the conservative cable channel Fox News, which has required its own employees to be vaccinated or tested dailyeven as his primetime hosts criticize Biden’s vaccine mandates.

“I know there are questions about whether we should meet here tonight, due to Covid. Well, we are here to show the country that we are overcoming this pandemic. In addition, everyone had to prove that they were fully vaccinated and boosted. So if you’re at home watching this and wondering how to do it, reach out to your favorite Fox News reporter. They are all here, vaccinated and reinforced. All of them.”

He also seized recent revelations that Trump White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and Sean Hannity of Fox News exchanged more than 80 text messages between Election Day 2020 and Biden’s inauguration.

“Fox News, I am so sorry that your preferred candidate lost the last election. To make it up to them, I’m happy to give my chief of staff to all of you so he can tell Sean Hannity what to say every day.”

Perhaps the biggest laugh came when Biden mocked the slogan “Let’s Go Brandon,” which has become right-wing code for insulting him. “Republicans seem to support one guy, a guy named Brandon. He’s having a really good year and I’m kind of happy for him.”

When Biden shifted gears toward the end of his 14-minute speech to acknowledge the importance of journalism to American democracy, he again drew a contrast to his predecessor by insisting that a free press “is not the enemy of the people”.

“Where the truth is buried by lies and lies live as truth, which is clear, and I say this from the bottom of my heart, that you, the free press, matter more than ever in the last century,” Biden said. . saying.

He added that “American democracy is not a reality show,” apparently another dig at Trump, a former host of The Apprentice.

In another restoration of tradition, the president was forced to sit while a comedian roasted him. South African Trevor Noah, host of Comedy Central’s The Daily Show, told Biden, “Thank you for having me here. And I was a little confused as to why me, but then they told me you get the highest approval ratings when a biracial African guy is standing next to you.”

Noah also observed, “Since taking office, things are already looking up. He raised gas, he raised rent, he raised food, everything.”

The comedian criticized media personalities and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. He said of Kyrsten Sinema, a conservative Democratic senator who has helped thwart much of Biden’s legislative agenda: “Who thought we’d see the day when a senator could be openly bisexual but a covert Republican?”

Noah ended with a reference to Biden’s failed withdrawal from Afghanistan, telling the audience: “Be careful leaving tonight. We all know this administration doesn’t handle evacuations well.”

The gala dinner had other serious moments, with tributes to pioneering journalists of color and aspiring journalism students. A somber photo montage honoring journalists killed while covering the Russian invasion of Ukraine drew a standing ovation.

Chris CoonsDemocratic senator and Biden ally, told The Guardian: “As it has always been in its best years in the past, this was a night that celebrated young journalists, seasoned journalists, innovative journalists from a generation ago. and it was mixed with a lot of humor, some rubbing elbows, some celebrities.

“The president played exactly the role we’d expect a president to play: a bit of light humor, a very earnest tribute to the importance of a free press, and then sit back and listen while others mocked him.”


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