Washington elites and Hollywood celebrities gathered to celebrate the return of the White House Correspondents' Dinner this weekend, where President Joe Biden and comedian Trevor Noah left few media outlets, or politicians, out of their respective roasts.
The gala, usually thrown annually by the White House Correspondents' Association, was canceled in 2020 and 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The dinner's return Saturday evening marked the first time the sitting U.S. president attended the event, lovingly referred to as "nerd prom," in six years. Former President Donald Trump declined to go during his time in office, citing his combative relationship with the Washington press corps, making former President Barack Obama the last sitting commander in chief to go to the storied event.
In addition to Noah, who hosts The Daily Show on Comedy Central, comedians James Corden and Billy Eichner also appeared in pre-recorded video sketches that aired as guests were being served their main course.
THREE TIMES THE WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENTS' DINNER HAS CREATED CONTROVERSY
Here were some of the top moments from Biden and Noah's speeches to the glitzy crowd:
1. Biden opens with a dig at his own approval ratings before taking aim at Trump
President Biden offered "a special thanks to the 42% of you who actually applauded" as he started his speech, making light of his struggling poll numbers. Taking a jab at the media, he then added, "I'm really excited to be here tonight with the only group of Americans with a lower approval rating than I have."
Shifting to former President Trump without mentioning him by name, Biden made reference to his 2020 competitor's absence from the dinner during his four years in the White House. Calling it "understandable" that no president had been to the event since 2016, he told the packed ballroom, "We had a horrible plague, followed by two years of COVID."
"Just imagine if my predecessor came to this dinner this year," he added before making a reference to the Jan. 6 Capitol riot. "Now that would really have been a real coup if that occurred.”
2. Biden and Noah take aim at the dinner itself
The 46th president also joked about the hypocrisy of having 2,600 attendees gather for a nonessential event in the wake of a deadly pandemic, saying, "Tonight, we come here to answer a very important question on everybody's mind. Why in hell are we still doing this?"
"I know there are questions about whether we should gather here tonight because of COVID," he continued, "Well, we're here to show the country that we're getting through this pandemic. Plus, everyone had to prove they're fully vaccinated and boosted. So if you're at home watching this, and you're wondering how to do that, just contact your favorite Fox News reporter. They're all here, vaccinated and boosted — all of them."
The camera then panned to one of Fox News's tables at the event, where the network's White House correspondent, Peter Doocy, could be seen nodding his head.
Noah, meanwhile, opened his speech by thanking the crowd and saying that it was his "great honor to be speaking tonight at the nation's most distinguished superspreader event." He then poked fun at the idea of journalists flouting COVID-19 protocols after stringently advocating for them in their professional capacities.
"No, for real people, what are we doing here? Let's be honest: What are we doing? Did none of you learn anything from the Gridiron Dinner? Like, do you read any of your own newspapers?" the comedian from South Africa joked. "I mean, I expected this from Sean Hannity, but the rest of you: What are you doing here? You guys spent the last two years telling everyone the importance of wearing masks and avoiding large indoor gatherings, then the second someone offers you a free dinner, you all turn into Joe Rogan. I mean, Dr. Fauci dropped out. That should have been a pretty big sign. Fauci thought it was too dangerous to come tonight. Pete Davidson thinks it's okay. And we all went with Pete, OK."
3. Biden and Noah go after Democratic Senate opposition
Both headliners for Saturday's event took aim at Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema, centrists who have prevented progressive elements of the president's legislative agenda from passing. The two, who continue to support maintaining the 60-vote filibuster threshold, wield enormous negotiating power in a 50-50 Senate where every vote is needed.
"Look, I know this is a tough time," Biden said in his speech, "I came to office with an ambitious agenda, and I expected it to face stiff opposition in the Senate. I just hoped it would be from Republicans."
In Noah's speech, he joked about the senators by name, first taking aim at Manchin, who represents West Virginia.
"The real reason that it’s such an honor to be here tonight is that we all get to be in the same room as the most powerful man in the United States," he said, "So let’s give it up for Joe Manchin, everybody."
As for Sinema, who represents Arizona, the comedian told the crowd to "give it up for Kyrsten Sinema. Who’d ever thought we’d see the day in American politics when a senator could be openly bisexual but closeted Republican?"
4. Biden and Noah honor free speech and the free press
Both Biden and Noah made reference to Russia's military invasion of Ukraine, as well as the current U.S. political divides, in their speeches. Biden focused on disinformation, while Noah linked the two.
"A poison is running through our democracy," the president said, "with disinformation massively on the rise. You, the free press, matter more than you ever did in the last century. I really mean it."
CLICK HERE TO READ MORE FROM THE WASHINGTON EXAMINER
“The free press is not the enemy of the people, far from it. The truth matters. American democracy is not a reality show. It’s not a reality show. It’s reality itself," he continued, making another reference to Trump. "Where the truth is buried by lies and the lies live on as truth, what's clear, and I mean this in the bottom of my heart, that you, the free press, matter more than you ever did in the last century."
Noah, who was met with applause after his speech, asked the crowd: "If Russian journalists had the freedom to write any story, use any words, to have the freedoms you do — would they be using that freedom the way you are?"
"Ask yourself that question every day."