Known for laughs, the DC dinner highlights the risks of journalism

The annual White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner, known for its biting humor and sharpjabs at the Washington elite, has taken on a more somber tone this year. The assault on press freedom across the world has been a painful reminder of the dangers journalists face. This year’s dinner was dedicated to a more serious discussion in support of those who are wrongfully imprisoned for reporting the news, as well as those who have disappeared while on the job.

Upon their arrival at the Washington Hilton on Saturday, President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden held a private meeting with the parents of Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich, who is currently imprisoned in Russia on charges of espionage. The Bidens expressed their support for Gershkovich’s parents and for his release, along with many other guests who wore buttons reading “Free Evan.” In addition, the mother of Austin Tice, who has been missing since 2012, was also in attendance.

The plight of journalists around the world who are unjustly detained for their reporting was a recurring theme throughout the evening. As Tamara Keith, White House correspondent for NPR and president of the association, noted, “They are among hundreds of journalists around the world who are wrongfully detained for the simple act of reporting — which is not a crime.” It was a powerful reminder of the importance of a free press and the sacrifices that journalists make to bring us the truth.

Among the attendees were numerous celebrities and media moguls, including actor Liev Schreiber, singer John Legend, and model and television personality Chrissy Teigen. The evening was opened by a recorded video from actor and former California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, emphasizing the importance of a free and independent press. The featured entertainer for the evening was comedian Roy Wood Jr., correspondent for ‘The Daily Show’.

As he anticipated the audience’s response to his jokes, Wood prefaced his remarks by stating that humor will not change deep-seated beliefs. He cited Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who has been embroiled in numerous controversies in recent months, as an example. Wood remarked, “You can’t change that person’s mind with a joke.” Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris were seated on stage with Wood for the evening’s entertainment.

The White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner is a familiar event to President Biden, who has attended several as Barack Obama’s vice president. He was the first president in six years to accept the invitation after his predecessor, Donald Trump, avoided the event during his administration. Last year, Biden took aim at his Republican critics, including Trump, but this year’s dinner was focused on more serious matters. As the President arrives as Commander-in-Chief and a presidential candidate, he was reminded of the importance of a free press and the dangers that journalists face every day.

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