WASHINGTON Reuters President Joe Biden praised journalists covering the Russian invasion of Ukraine as he resumed a Washington tradition of speaking at the White House Correspondents Association dinner on Saturday night.
After being canceled for two years due to the COVID 19 pandemic and boycotted by Donald Trump during his presidency, the event returned with gusto, featuring remarks by comedian Trevor Noah.
Biden opened his speech by cracking jokes about his low approval ratings, his age and Trump's dislike of the media.
Biden said that I'm really excited to be here tonight with the only group of Americans with a lower approval rating than I have.
His remarks took a more serious turn, thanking journalists for their courage in covering Ukraine and beyond before making a plea for national unity.
Our democracy is plagued by a poison. Biden said that disinformation was hugely on the rise. The free press matters more than you did in the last century. Journalists, media executives, administration officials and celebrities - including Kim Kardashian and comedian Pete Davidson -- attended the dinner. It included slideshows honoring the first two female Black reporters to join the White House Correspondents Association, and journalists who lost their lives in recent months covering Ukraine.
A recent rise in COVID 19 cases in Washington, in particular an outbreak at the journalists' white-tie Gridiron dinner early in April, has caused a caution at the White House dinner.
Organizers required every attendee to be tested for the disease, and some top officials, including infectious disease expert Dr. Antony Fauci, dropped out.
Biden took the opportunity to poke fun at Fox News hosts in attendance - many of whom expressed skepticism of vaccines on air by pointing out they had to prove vaccination status in order to attend.
Biden attended only the speakers program, so he took extra precautions at the event by skipping the dinner portion. He did not wear a mask while speaking.
The president has mostly been unmasked at crowded White House events, but those events had lower attendance than Saturday's dinner, which was expected to seat about 2,600 people.
The White House Correspondents AssociationWhite House Correspondents Association was founded in 1914 and has held a dinner nearly every year since 1921 to celebrate reporters who cover the presidency and raise money for scholarships.
Biden could not resist a jab at Putin in closing out his remarks.
Trevor, the good news is that you get to roast the president of the United States, now, he said to Noah, who gave the event's roast.