Biden Calls Trump a Plague, Celebrates ‘Brandon’ Alter Ego at WHCD

Biden also told some new jokes about being considered old, and said absolutely nothing about Elon Musk. Photo: Nicholas Kamm/AFP via Getty Images

The White House Correspondents’ Dinner returned from its two-year pandemic hiatus on Saturday night, complete once again with a singing and dancing U.S. president, following Donald Trump’s administration-length boycott of the annual event. “This is the first time the president has attended this dinner in six years,” commented President Biden (who did not actually sing or dance). “It’s understandable. We had a horrible plague … followed by two years of COVID.”

Biden, whose speech to the ballroom filled with journalists, political figures, and celebrities preceded the evening’s keynote roast by Trevor Noah, delivered a number of one-liners aimed at the usual suspects, including:

  • Another on Trump: “Just imagine if my predecessor came to this dinner this year. Now that would really have been a real coup.”
  • At the Republican Party: “I’m not here to roast the GOP. That’s not my style. Besides, there’s nothing I can say about the GOP that Kevin McCarthy hasn’t already put on tape.”
  • At the media: “A special thanks to the 42 percent of you who actually applauded. I’m really excited to be here tonight with the only group of Americans with a lower approval rating than I have.”
  • At the (two) Democrats (in the Senate) who have stymied much of his legislative agenda: “Look, I know this is a tough town. 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.”
  • And at himself, including what was arguably Biden’s best joke: “Republicans seem to support one fella: some guy named Brandon. He’s having a really good year. And I’m kind of happy for him.”

Both Biden and Noah also acknowledged the quite-real risk of COVID transmission at the event, though the setup of Biden’s joke on the matter could also be interpreted as an echo of the annual bemoaning that the event exists at all: “Tonight we come here to answer a very important question in everybody’s mind: Why in the hell are we still doing this?

After adding that “we’re here to show the country that we’re getting through this pandemic,” the president then highlighted how “everyone had to prove they’re fully vaccinated and boosted — so if you’re 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.” (Noah joked that he was honored to be able to speak at “the nation’s most distinguished superspreader event.”)

The president used the rest of his speech to celebrate the free press and underline the importance of journalism to democracy. Biden championed the journalists working in Ukraine and particularly those who have been killed during the war. And he addressed the present challenges of the industry, noting the threats of misinformation and authoritarianism, and making numerous references to his predecessor’s routine attacks on the media:

The free press is not the enemy of the people — far from it. At your best, you’re guardians of the truth. … The First Amendment grants a free press extraordinary protection, but with it comes, as many of you know, a very heavy obligation: to seek the truth as best you can — not to inflame or entertain, but to illuminate and educate. I know it’s tough. And I’m not being solicitous. The industry is changing significantly. There’s incredible pressure on you all to deliver heat instead of shed light, because the technology is changing so much, the system is changing. But it matters. No kidding. It matters. The truth matters. American democracy is not a reality show. It’s not a reality show. It’s reality itself. And the reality is that we are a great country.

If you didn’t avoid the dinner and speeches on purpose, you can watch Biden deliver his remarks below:

Biden Calls Trump a Plague, Celebrates Brandon’s Good Year