Washington’s political and media elites observe their annual truce – lasting a few hours – on Saturday at the White House Correspondents Association dinner, where President Joe Biden will find himself the butt of jokes and fire back with his own.
The ritual is a landmark in the social calendar of the American capital and takes place again at the Hilton hotel where Ronald Reagan was shot and nearly killed by John Hinckley Jr. in 1981, while leaving his speech in front of the unions.
The dinner institution had begun to wither – first boycotted by Donald Trump, then shut down completely for Covid-19.
Even last year, strict Covid testing, frequent mask use and dwindling attendance resulted in a relatively low-key affair.
Saturday’s event, White House Correspondents’ Association President Tamara Keith said, is “completely sold out.”
NPR radio correspondent Keith said hundreds of people were turned away after tickets ran out.
“It’s post-Covid. Last year people were pretty nervous about walking into a ballroom with 2,600 people, and this year they’re climbing over each other to get there,” she told The Hill.
Among those additional guests is Vice President Kamala Harris, joining Biden, 80, on stage the same week they declared their candidacy for re-election in 2024.
The presence of the president and vice president will restore a tradition last seen in 2016, the last dinner before Trump entered the White House.
Hollywood personalities, Washington politicians of all stripes and representatives of every media organization imaginable will crowd inside on Saturday.
As in previous years, a top comedian will perform, this time “Daily Show” correspondent Roy Wood Jr.
The occasion is meant to celebrate the constitution’s First Amendment guarantees of free speech – and a free press. However, jokes tend to make headlines.
Wood, speaking to CBS News, said the two aspects are mutually reinforcing.
“As a citizen, I have the opportunity to look elected officials in the face and say, ‘This is where you’re all wrong,'” he said, adding, “it has to be funny. “
If previous editions are any guide, many jokes will be directed at Biden, but also at the reporters who cover him. Polls show less than half the country approves of the Democrat, while the media receives little love from much of the country, presenting many soft targets.
Wood is also likely to run barbs against members of Congress and, no doubt, given the new election cycle, against Trump and other Republicans considering White House races.
Conservative firebrand Tucker Carlson, a key figure in Republican politics who has often interviewed Trump and was dramatically fired from Fox News this week, could also be a target.
Responding to comments that he may need to update his speech to incorporate the plight of Carlson – who has been widely criticized for spreading misinformation and late-night reams of hateful rhetoric – Wood wrote: “‘Update? “Dude, I gotta throw the whole fucking script.”
Biden will have his own place and an opportunity to show he can handle the heat.
He may have been training on Friday, delivering his brand of self-mockery about his age – although more dad jokes than edgy late-night TV fare.
Referring to a speech by President Dwight Eisenhower 65 years ago, Biden joked at a ceremony honoring the Air Force football team, “I wasn’t there.”
After stopping laughing, he added, “It doesn’t matter what the press says.”
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(This story has not been edited by News18 staff and is published from a syndicated news agency feed)