The White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner — known for funny, albeit violent jabs at Washington — took on a more serious tone this year as President Joe Biden acknowledged several American journalists under siege in authoritarian countries around the world.
“We’re here to send a message to the country and, very clearly, to the world: A free press is a pillar, perhaps the pillar, the pillar of a free society, not the enemy,” Mr. Biden said in his speech.
President and First Lady Jill Biden arrived at the Washington Hilton on Saturday to meet privately with the parents of a Wall Street Journal reporter. Ivan Gershkovich, who has been imprisoned in Russia since March. He was charged with espionage despite strong denials from his employer and the US government. Some guests wore buttons with “Free Ivan” printed on them.
Also among the 2,600 people in attendance was Debra Tice, the mother of Austin Tice, who has not been heard from since he disappeared at a checkpoint in Syria in 2012. US officials say they are acting on the assumption that he is alive and working. Try to bring him home.
Alexander Drago / Reuters
“Journalism is not a crime. Ivan and Austin should be released immediately along with other Americans detained abroad,” Mr. Biden said. “I promise you, I’m working like hell to get them home.”
The Bidens also made a beeline for it Brittany Griner, the WNBA star and Olympic gold medalist who was detained in Russia for nearly 10 months last year before her release in a prisoner exchange. Griner appeared as a guest on CBS News with his wife, Cheryl.
“This time last year we were praying for you, Britney,” Mr Biden told the basketball star.
The annual black-tie dinner drew a wide array of celebrities and media moguls to Washington, where parties were held across the capital. Among those in attendance were actor Liev Schreiber, singer John Legend and his wife, model and television personality Chrissy Teigen.
Actor and former California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger opened the dinner with a pre-taped video about the importance of a free and independent press, calling journalists “the people’s allies.” Mr. Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris were seated on stage with comedian Roy Wood Jr., a correspondent for “The Daily Show,” who was the featured entertainer.
While Mr. Biden focused much of his speech on the issue of press freedom, he took time to taunt his most vocal political critics as well as himself. The occasion is a familiar and comfortable one for Mr. Biden, who has attended several dinners as Barack Obama’s vice president. Washington incident Back last year After being sidelined by Covid-19 is global In 2020 and 2021. Mr Biden is the first president in six years to accept the invitation since former President Donald Trump Avoided incidents while in office.
But this year he came not only as Commander in Chief but also as a contender for the post of President. He gave some push to the potential 2024 Republican candidate Florida Governor Ron DeSantissaid “I had a lot of Ron DeSantis jokes ready but Mickey Mouse beats the hell out of meGot there first.”
He began his punchline with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, taking direct aim at a recent bill House Republicans pass That would lift the debt limit in exchange for a series of budget cuts, including some of Mr. Biden’s key legislative accomplishments.
“The last time the Republicans voted for something it took 15 unhelpful tries,” Mr. Biden said. McCarthy endured a terrible fight To be Speaker in January.
And he didn’t stop there, going after the chairman of Fox Corporation Rupert Murdoch About his age “And you call me old?” he told the crowd.
Mr. Biden has even made a few self-deprecating jokes, mostly around criticism of his age as he mounts a second bid for re-election. “I believe in the First Amendment and not just because my good friend Jimmy Madison wrote it,” he told a roaring crowd.
Wood, who took the stage after Mr. Biden, also zeroed in on the president’s age.
“We should be inspired by what happened in France. They rioted when the retirement age was raised by two years to 64,” Wood said. “Meanwhile in America, we have an 80-year-old man begging us for four more years.”