He noted that no president had attended the event since Barack Obama did in 2016. The event was canceled for two years due to COVID, and Trump boycotted it during his presidency due to his longstanding feud with the press.
“We had a horrible plague … followed by two years of COVID,” Biden joked.
The joke was perhaps Biden’s most scathing in the course of his speech, but far from the only one. He also took aim at Republicans, members of the press, and even himself.
He said he was excited to be at dinner with the “only group of Americans with a lower approval rating than me.” He also thanked “42% of you who really clapped.”
Biden also addressed Fox News’ aggressive anti-vaccine stance, noting that all network journalists who attended the dinner were “vaccinated and boosted,” as required.
Biden mocked that “Republicans seem to support one guy, a guy named Brandon,” a reference to the scrambled slur against which he has become a MAGA favorite. “He’s having a good year, I’m kind of happy for him,” she said wryly.
The president later insisted that he was not there to attack the Republican Party.
“That’s not my style. There is nothing I can say about the Republican Party that [House Minority leader] Kevin McCarthy hasn’t put a tape on yet,” he joked, a reference to a series of damning McCarthy recordings after the Jan. 6 insurrection.
But the president turned somber as he warned of the “gravest of threats” to democracy and highlighted the vital importance of the press.
“A poison runs through our democracy…all of this is happening with massively increasing misinformation,” he said.
“The truth is buried by the lies, and the lies live on as truth,” Biden added. “What is clear, and I say this from the bottom of my heart, is that you, a free press, matter more than ever in the last century.”
He urged journalists: “Seek the truth as best you can, not to inflame and entertain, but to enlighten and educate.”
Comedian Trevor Noah followed Biden with an equal opportunity barbecue, criticizing both Republicans and Democrats.
He took aim at Sen. Krysten Sinema (D-Ariz.), who frequently seeks to block Democratic legislation. “Who thought we’d see the day in American politics where a senator could be openly bisexual but a covert Republican?” she asked her.
Noah also mocked Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (R) for rejecting more than 50 math textbooks in public schools, calling it a covert strategy to make Floridians so ignorant of math that they are unable to verify lies about math. manipulated electoral numbers.