Correspondents’ dinner: US President Joe Biden shares with humor

BBefore Joe Biden becomes the object of mockery and biting humor, he himself has the floor. Washington, late Saturday night, a windowless hotel ballroom with 2,600 guests. Due to the pandemic, the Correspondents’ Dinner reporting on the White House and the President is taking place for the first time in three years. And for the first time in six years, the outgoing president is invited.

As “the only group of Americans that has a lower approval rating than mine,” Biden greets his guests. He immediately sets the tone: The mockery is not one-sided tonight. But Biden is also self-ironical. He estimates the proportion of those who applauded him at “42%” – an allusion to his modest polls.

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Biden, who turns 80 in November, also doesn’t care about his age. For the first time, an American president attended this annual dinner in 1924, he says, adding ironically: “I have just been elected to the Senate.” Laughter in the room – in truth, Biden became a senator in 1972.

With a scathing remark, Biden addresses his predecessor Donald Trump, without even mentioning his name once: “We had a terrible plague, followed by two years of Covid. Elsewhere, in a more serious tone, Biden argues that American democracy is “not reality TV.”

Joe Biden (2nd from right) with his wife Jill and comedian Trevor Noah (left)

Joe Biden (right) with his wife Jill and comedian Trevor Noah (left)

Source: AP

Biden’s speechwriters have created a script that shines a light on the president to reporters. Of course, they get their fat too, at least if they work for right-wing Fox News. He questions Biden’s Covid policy and sometimes even vaccinations. That evening, however, each guest had to prove their vaccination status, including reminders and a negative test on top of that.

Biden mentions that, speaking to viewers: “So if you’re sitting at home wondering how to do this, just contact your favorite Fox News reporter, they’re all here, vaccinated and boosted, everybody. And speaking of the Biden-critical broadcaster, he shouts, “Fox News, I’m so sorry your candidate lost the last election.”

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Biden indirectly expresses his belief that Trump will not win the 2024 presidential election by talking about his “six years remaining” as president. American optimism. Or rather deliberate optimism?

But Biden also strikes a serious note, for example when it comes to democracy and press freedom, and of course the war in Ukraine. Portraits of journalists killed during the Ukrainian war can be seen on a screen in the background. “You, the free press, are more important than at any time in the last century,” Biden says. His predecessor Trump called journalists “enemies of the people”.

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On site for

The White House Reporters’ Dinner has been held since 1921, promoting freedom of the press and freedom of speech. Organizers raise funds for journalists’ programs and award prizes and scholarships. The mockery at the expense of the president and other celebrities is part of the annual event.

Even though there are laughs that night, it’s still serious. The Association of Correspondents commemorates, among others, the American journalist Austin Tice, imprisoned in Syria since 2012. His mother Debra Tice is present in the room.

Biden impales the authoritarian behavior of states like Russia by clearing the way for comedian Trevor Noah at the end of his quarter-hour speech: “Trevor, now you can tease the President of the United States and, unlike Moscow, you won’t. get in trouble in jail.”

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Russian dictator Vladimir Putin.  On screen: Kremlin propagandist Vladimir Soloviev

The 38-year-old does, beginning his speech by noting, “It’s my great honor to speak tonight at the nation’s most important broadcast event.” He points out that Biden’s health expert, Antony Fauci, 81, his participation had canceled this evening out of Covid caution.

Noah mocks those present but, like Biden, solemnly touts the importance of a free press. Seriousness and humour, irony and self-mockery go hand in hand during this evening. It’s a typically American mix, happy and free.

Noah addresses Biden’s trait of sometimes saying more than his associates would like. Recently, Biden caused a major international scandal by saying that Vladimir Putin should be removed from power. “It was very, very upsetting for Russia,” Noah scoffed, “until someone explained to them that nothing Biden wants is actually going to happen.”

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Under the presidency of Biden, things keep going up, “gas prices, rents, food prices”, taunts the artist and cabaret host (“Daily Show”). In the current “golden age of conspiracy theories,” two things are evident, says Noah: America on the right thinks Trump can still win the (lost) 2020 presidential election — and “the left thinks Joe Biden can still win the 2024 election”.

At the end, Noah thanks him for the invitation and alludes to the withdrawal from Afghanistan almost a year ago: “Please be careful if you leave tonight. We all know that this government is not not good at handling evacuations.

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