The red carpet returns with the White House Correspondents’ Dinner


As a return to some normality, journalists, government officials and celebrities marched down the red carpet at the annual event on Saturday night White House Press Corps Gala despite the threat of COVID-19 looming over the hotel’s massive ballroom.

The White House Correspondents Association dinner that suspended the 2020 and 2021 pandemic returned with Joe Biden the first President to accept an invitation in six years. donald trump avoided the event during his tenure.

Comedy was back, too, with The Daily Show host Trevor Noah as a headliner. Celebrities reappeared too: Kim Kardashian and Pete Davidson walked the carpet, as did Brooke Shields and Caitlyn Jenner. The event attracted a large crowd of government officials and other prominent figures.

Biden will face more than 2,600 participants as he attempts to strike a careful balance at a pivotal moment for the country. His government is attempting to turn the page on the pandemic, even as the virus remains a threat nationally and close to home. Vice President Kamala Harris tested positive this week and Dr. Anthony Fauci skipped dinner due to health precautions.

Dozens of attendees, including members of Congress and Biden’s cabinet, as well as journalists, tested positive for COVID-19 following the Gridiron Club’s recent press dinner in Washington.

That raised questions about whether Biden, 79, should attend Saturday’s dinner. The President planned to skip the meal but showed up later for the program. He also planned to be masked when not speaking.

The White House has stressed the abundance of the antiviral pill Paxlovid, which has been shown to reduce the serious consequences of the virus by 90% in those most at risk.

Still, spokeswoman Jen Psaki said of Biden, “We want to be very clear that it’s possible that he could, like any American, test positive for COVID.”

The White House Correspondents Association said it was requiring same-day antigen testing for its dinner attendees ahead of the Gridiron outbreak. It then added compulsory vaccination.

The US is seeing a spike in COVID-19 cases from a highly contagious subvariant of Omicron, with confirmed infections rising to about 44,000 per day, up from 26,000 a month ago.

Despite the recent wave of COVID-19 cases, viral deaths and hospitalizations are near or at pandemic lows, with the BA.2 variant proving to be less severe than previous strains of the virus. In the US, just over 300 people are dying from the virus each day, up from more than 2,600 daily earlier this year — with about 1,600 hospitalizations per day, up from a peak of more than 21,000 daily in January.

Psaki said Biden’s decision to attend “stands in stark contrast to his predecessor, who not only questioned the legitimacy of the press on an almost daily basis, but also never attended the dinner.” Trump, who at times branded the media “enemies of the people,” gleefully boycotted the event as president.

Amid the looming threat of the virus, Biden planned to take over the mic as a massive and deadly invasion of Ukraine by Russian forces unfolded.

Mentioning the dinner last week during a speech about Russia’s war on Ukraine, Biden said, “I’ve always had respect for the press, but I can’t tell you how much respect I have for them in these zones where they are.” , observe under fire.”

“Imagine if we didn’t get that information,” the president added. “It would be a different world.”

The Correspondents’ Dinner made its debut in 1921. Three years later, Calvin Coolidge became the first President to attend, and since then everyone except Trump has attended. However, Jimmy Carter and Richard Nixon chose not to attend every year of their presidencies, and Ronald Reagan, then recovering from an assassination attempt, missed the 1981 installment — but called from Camp David.

“I think that shows the health of the relationship being restored,” said Holzer, director of the Roosevelt House Public Policy Institute at Hunter College in New York. “It’s still unruly, there are still tense moments. But that’s okay.”

After comedian Michelle Wolf’s sharp satire sparked controversy in 2018, the following year’s event was staffed by historian Ron Chernow. The return of celebrities this time evokes memories of President Barack Obama’s administration, when the likes of George Clooney, Charlize Theron and Viola Davis were in attendance.

As vice president in 2014, Biden appeared in a comedy video with HBO’s “Veep” star Julia Louis-Dreyfus, which caused big laughs at the correspondents’ dinner. White House speechwriter Vinay Reddy and longtime Biden adviser Mike Donilon were working on Biden’s remarks for this year, the White House said, tapping into material from a variety of people inside and outside of government.

Already admitting he was trying to lower expectations, Psaki said the speech was “not funny at all. I’m just kidding.” Attempts at humor by the president can be difficult, however.

At the 2011 dinner, Obama speared a disaffected Trump—in his presence—over Trump’s fictional claims about the then-president’s birth certificate. Obama concluded by reflecting on the fact that Trump would one day take his job, saying, “He would certainly bring some changes to the White House,” as the banquet room screens flashed a parodic image of the grand facade of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, which featured a Trump logo, gold pillars, etc. digital clock and a sign that read “Hotel, Casino, Golf Course, Presidential Suite.”

That proved prophetic, as Trump naturally succeeded Obama — although the overhauls he eventually brought to the presidency did not result in his name being added to the White House.


Associated Press writer Zeke Miller contributed to this report. The red carpet returns with the White House Correspondents’ Dinner

Bobby Allyn

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