Biden is ‘very serious’ about threats to democracy amid jokes at correspondents’ dinner

President Biden struck a somber note between jokes at the White House Correspondents Association dinner on Saturday, saying he is “very serious” about the threats facing democracy and the “liberal world order that laid the foundation for world peace, stability and prosperity”. ”

“We are at a time when what we have taken for granted for so long is facing the gravest of threats. And I’m being deadly serious. Abroad, the liberal world order that laid the foundation for global peace, stability and prosperity since World War II is really, seriously under attack,” Biden said.

“And at home, a poison runs through our democracy… all of this is happening with massively increasing disinformation,” he continued. “But the truth is buried by the lies, and the lies live on as truth. What is clear, and I say this from the bottom of my heart, is that you, a free press, matter more than ever in the last century.”

During his speech, Biden also honored the journalists who reported on the ground during Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, saying they have given viewers and readers an “unvarnished” look at the destruction that has engulfed Ukraine for over two months of fighting.

He also acknowledged the pandemic, noting that Vice President Kamala Harris, who was absent from the event after testing positive for COVID-19 on Tuesday, was “fine” and that all attendees had to show they were fully vaccinated and boosted.

“I know there are questions about whether we should meet here tonight because of COVID,” he said. “Well, we are here to show the country that we are overcoming this pandemic.”

The president took on a more cheerful tone in other parts of his remarks, poking fun at himself and going on the offensive with jokes about former President Trump and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.).

“Thank you [White House Correspondents’ Association President] Steve [Portnoy] for that performance, and a special thanks to the 42 percent of you who actually clapped,” Biden said, referring to his lagging approval numbers.

“I am very excited to be here tonight with the only group of Americans with a lower approval rating than me.”

Biden also mocked the anti-Biden phrase “Come on Brandon,” alluding to it in his comments.

“Republicans seem to support one guy. A guy named Brandon. He is having a very good year. And I’m kind of happy for him,” Biden joked.

The president also took some jabs at Trump, including referring to his presidency as a “horrible plague” that preceded the COVID-19 pandemic.

Biden even went so far as to suggest that a “real coup” could have occurred had the former president attended the event on Saturday, a reference to the January 6, 2021 insurrection on Capitol Hill that took place amid unsubstantiated claims by Trump of that he stole the last presidential election and Trump’s decision to give up the annual correspondents’ dinner during his term.

Biden also had no qualms about wading into the recent controversy surrounding McCarthy over leaked audio of a House leaders’ call involving the minority leader days after the Capitol riots. In those recordings, McCarthy said he was considering asking Trump to resign and also claimed Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) was “putting people in harm’s way” following comments the Florida congressman made. after the riots.

“Guys, I’m not really here to roast the Republican Party. That’s not my style. Also, there is nothing I can say about the Republican Party that Kevin McCarthy hasn’t already recorded,” Biden joked.

Democrats were also the source of some of Biden’s material on Saturday night, as he joked about the gridlock within his own party on passing Democratic legislative priorities, the most notable example being the president’s signing of the Build Back Better Act.

“Look, I know this is a tough town. I came into office with an ambitious agenda and expected to face strong opposition in the Senate. I just hoped it was from the Republicans. But I’m not worried about the midterms,” Biden said before subtly suggesting that he would be elected to a second term in office.

“I’m not worried about them. We may end up with more partisan gridlock, but I’m confident we can work it out during my remaining six years in office,” the president said.

Biden’s comments come as the White House Correspondents Association held its first dinner in three years, following two years of cancellations due to health concerns amid the pandemic. Saturday also marked the first presidential appearance at the annual event in six years due to Trump’s repeated absences.

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