President Joe Biden showed he can take a joke or two aimed at him, and dish them out as well, while honoring the media Saturday night at the annual White House Correspondents’ Dinner in Washington, D.C.
Some of the celebs making their way down the red carpet at the event included actor Jerry O’Connell and wife Rebecca Romijn, WNBA star Brittney Griner and wife Cherelle Griner, model Winnie Harlow, actress Angelica Ross, actor Liev Schreiber and singer John Legend.
Marvel screenwriter and actor Clark Gregg was there, along with actor Phil Coulson, John Leguizamo and wife Justine Maurer, “The View” co-host Sunny Hostin, along with “Game of Thrones” actress Lena Headey and her actor husband Marc Menchaca.
Addressing the room of journalists, politicians and entertainers, Biden pulled no punches while talking about Donald Trump or Fox News and while expressing his reverence for press freedom, the 80-year-old president even poked fun at his own age.
“I believe in the First Amendment – not just because my good friend Jimmy Madison wrote it,” Biden said, referring to James Madison, the fourth U.S. president and a primary author of the Constitution and Bill of Rights.
Biden also tossed some ageist trash-talk at Rupert Murdoch, 92-year-old owner of Fox News, saying, “You think that I don’t like Rupert Murdoch. That’s simply not true. How could I dislike a guy who makes me look like Harry Styles,” Biden said.
But most of Biden’s address was serious, honoring the press and especially journalists incarcerated in other countries.
The room took a moment to honor Evan Gershkovich, a Wall Street Journal reporter being held captive in Russia for alleged espionage while reporting on the war with Ukraine. Members of his family were at the dinner, and the audience stood up in a show of support for them.
“It’s simply wrong. It’s outrageous. And we are not ceasing our efforts to bring him home,” Biden said.
With all that celebrity and power in the room, it took a larger-than-life figure to steal the show all the way from the West Coast. Enter Arnold Schwarzenegger, live by video from Los Angeles, to deliver a serious thanks to the press corps.
“I just simply wanted to say thank you, thank you, thank you to all of you,” Schwarzenegger told the room. “Our country would not be the shining beacon of freedom that welcomes people like me without the free press.”
While the dinner is traditionally a light-hearted event, Schwarzenegger said that the symbol of the American free press is seen around the world.
“Tonight’s event sends a powerful message. You don’t see politicians schmoozing and drinking with the press in Beijing and Moscow. No, not at all,” he said.
The former California governor said the press often “annoyed” him in office, which means it is doing its job in keeping politicians accountable.
“I wouldn’t be the Arnold that you know, without the press. Even when you asked questions that annoyed the hell out of me, I reminded myself, you are actually doing the people’s work,” he added.
At the end of the live feed, the camera angle widened to show Schwarzenegger hanging out with his “Twins” co-star Danny DeVito, who was feeding a pony and a donkey.
As keynote speaker, comedian Roy Wood, Jr. wanted to make one thing clear: After Dominion Voting Systems won a $787.5 million settlement from Fox News over defamation charges, Wood had nothing negative to say about Dominion or its lawyers.
“I love Dominion,” Wood said. “My favorite voting machine is Dominion voting machines. When I go to the polls, I make sure it is a Dominion machine I use,” Wood said. “I do not want to get sued by Dominion.”
Wood said there are three parties you don’t want to go to court with — Dominion, Cardi B and Gwyneth Paltrow.
He also defended Biden, and noted one of the questions he hears the most is whether the president is awake. “Say what you want about our president, but when he wakes up from that nap, work gets done,” Wood said.
Touching on the firing of Fox News host Tucker Carlson, Wood said he empathizes with the staff that worked for Carlson.
“I know what you’re feeling. I worked at the ‘Daily Show,’ so I too have been blindsided by the sudden departure of the host of a fake news program,” said Wood said.