Donald Trump famously canceled the White House Correspondents' Association Dinner at the White House because of his equally famous inability to take a joke at his expense, and then COVID sank the affair for another two years. The WHCA finally held their dinner over the weekend and President Biden and headliner Trevor Noah got in some epic burns of the Village Idiots.
The White House press corps’ annual gala returned Saturday night along with the roasting of Washington, the journalists who cover it and the man at the helm: President Biden.
The White House Correspondents’ Assn. dinner, sidelined by the pandemic in 2020 and 2021, featured Biden as the first president in six years to accept an invitation. President Trump shunned the event while in office.
“Just 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 really have been a real coup.”
The president took the opportunity to test out his comedic chops, making light of the criticism he has faced in his 15 months in office while taking aim at his predecessor, the Republican Party and the members of the press.
“I’m really excited to be here tonight with the only group of Americans with a lower approval rating than I have,” Biden said to the Hilton ballroom filled with members of the media.
Biden also made light of the “Let’s Go Brandon” slogan, which has become the right’s stand-in for swearing at the president.
“Republicans seem to support one fella, some guy named Brandon,” Biden said, causing an uproar of laughter among the crowd. “He’s having a really good year. I’m happy for him.”
As far as roasting the GOP, he said, “There’s nothing I can say about the GOP that Kevin McCarthy hasn’t already put on tape.”
He also took a jab 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 country that we’re getting through this pandemic. Plus, everyone has to prove they are fully vaccinated and boosted,” Biden said. “Just contact your favorite Fox News reporter. They’re all here. Vaccinated and boosted.”
In addition to speeches from Biden and comedian Trevor Noah, the hours-long event had taped skits from talk show host James Corden, comedian Billy Eichner and the president himself.
“Thank you for having me here,” Noah said to Biden. “And I was a little confused on why me, but then I was told that you get your highest approval ratings when a biracial African guy is standing next to you.”
While the majority of the speech was filled with cutting jabs, Biden did make note of the important role journalism plays in American democracy, especially in the last decade.
“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. “You are the guardians of the truth.”
The dinner had other serious moments, with tributes to pioneer journalists of color, aspiring student reporters and a dedication to the journalists detained, injured or killed during the coverage of the ongoing Russian war in Ukraine.
Noah's closing monologue at the end of the night made it clear how much trouble journalism is across the globe, and how America's local reporters are the backbone to freedom of the press here. It was good to see them getting a major shoutout. Lord knows none of them would rate an invite to Nerd Prom.
Still, let's not forget that the relationship between the government and the media in 2022 is 100% transactional access, and it's been that way for decades now. It's definitely necessary to poke fun at it, but it's more so to reform it.