(WASHINGTON) — The annual White House Correspondents’ Association dinner was held Saturday night in Washington and, as is customary, featured a mix of celebrities, media personalities and remarks from a featured performer and the president.
While the night included laughs, there were also noted moments of reflection. Outside, climate protesters gathered.
Here are highlights from the event.
Biden’s remarks: Praising journalism, joking about cable hosts
Opening his address, President Joe Biden initially struck a serious tone as he addressed U.S. citizens who are being held abroad, naming Evan Gershkovich, Austin Tice, Paul Whelan and WNBA star Brittney Griner, the latter of whom was released last year.
“We’re working every day to secure his release, looking at opportunities and tools to bring him home,” Biden said about Gershkovich, a Wall Street Journal reporter detained in Russia on espionage charges he denies. “We keep the faith.”
“Tonight our message is this: Journalism is not a crime,” Biden said. “Evan and Austin should be released immediately, along with every other American held hostage or wrongfully detained abroad.”
Biden praised the power of journalism itself. “You make it possible for ordinary citizens to question authority. And, yes, even to laugh at authority without fear or intimidation,” he said.
The president, who launched his 2024 campaign last week, joked about his age, which some claim makes him unfit for a second term. At 80, he is the oldest president in U.S. history.
“Call me old? I call it being seasoned. They say I’m ancient, I say I’m wise,” Biden said to laughter from the audience. “They say ‘over the hill.’ Don Lemon would say that’s a man in his prime,” he continued, referencing a headline-making gaffe by the former CNN anchor about presidential candidate Nikki Haley.
Lemon wasn’t the only cable news personality to get a mention.
“Truth is, we really have a right to be proud of vaccinating the nation, transforming the economy, around historic legislative victories and midterm results. But the job isn’t finished — I mean, it is for Tucker Carlson,” Biden said of the now-departed Fox News host.
As he finished his speech, Biden donned a pair of dark aviator sunglasses and quipped about his “Dark Brandon” persona, which is a popular internet meme.
Roy Wood’s routine roasts Biden, Thomas
Comedian Roy Wood Jr. elicited many laughs from the audience during his stint as the featured performer — a tradition that was paused under President Donald Trump and before COVID-19, after comedian Michelle Wolf’s jokes about Trump aides stirred controversy.
During his routine on Saturday, Wood took jabs at Biden and the recently settled Dominion lawsuit against Fox News.
“We should be inspired by the events in France. They rioted when the retirement age went up two years to 64,” Wood said. “Meanwhile in America, we have an 80-year-old man begging us for four more years of work.”
Joking about trying to avoid a Dominion suit himself, Wood praised the company.
“Let me just say right now, my favorite voting machine is Dominion voting machines,” he said. “When I go to the polls, I make sure it is a Dominion machine that I use.”
“If your election needs the truth, put Dominion in your booth,” he continued.
More pointedly, Wood also addressed a recent ethics scandal involving Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas privately receiving years of gifts from friend Harlan Crow, a GOP donor.
“This man bought a Supreme Court justice. Do you understand how rich you have to be to buy a Supreme — a Black one on top of that?” Wood joked. “There’s only two in stock, and Harlan Crow owns half the inventory.”
The night’s biggest guests
Dinner attendees mixed some of the biggest names in Washington and beyond.
Griner attended with her wife, Cherelle; and the family of jailed Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny was also reportedly at the dinner.
Other guests included Oscar-winning actor Ke Huy Quan, model Winnie Harlow, John Legend and Chrissy Teigen, the Rev. Al Sharpton and Anthony Fauci.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and actress Julia Fox were also pictured together.
Climate demonstrators outside
The lavish event at the Washington Hilton drew demonstrators, too.
Climate Defiance organizers told ABC News before the dinner that they planned to try and blockade the area near the hotel in an effort to hold Biden accountable for what they say was his 2020 campaign promise to end fossil fuel extraction on public lands.
“We disrupted the rich + powerful b/c Joe Biden’s approval of deadly new oil + gas projects is killing the planet,’ the group wrote on Twitter. “We will continue to disrupt until we #EndFossilFuels.”
The youth-led group of activists protested in Washington for most of the week leading up to Saturday’s event.
ABC News’ Noah Minnie and Beatrice Pearson contributed to this report.
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