WASHINGTON — The White House Correspondents’ Association dinner is an annual celebration of the importance of the First Amendment. And, you know, Chrissy Teigen might show up.
On Saturday night, President Biden will appear for the dinner for the second time in his presidency. He is expected to speak about the importance of press freedom and the troubling detentions of journalists around the world.
Then, a president who is rarely around members of the press in informal settings is likely to give a speech of roughly 10 to 20 minutes containing salty asides about his coverage and actually-pretty-serviceable jokes about journalists and their peculiarities, as he did last year.
Roy Wood Jr., a comedian and a correspondent for “The Daily Show,” will host the event. He told Politico this week that he would bring “Clarence Thomas jokes” and that he was not sure if his set would go over well.
“I don’t think Washington has a sense of humor,” he said.
Should be fun!
People in Washington all have their ways of dealing with this weekend, and that includes the president. Some people leave town, some jump into the party lineup like eager little salmon swimming upstream and others take the opportunity to fold it into their regularly scheduled diatribes about the news media.
No one did the latter more vocally than Mr. Biden’s predecessor, Donald J. Trump. Mr. Trump might have dimmed the dinner of its star power and pre-party funding, but he never quite managed to snuff out this town’s will to party.
Mr. Biden, who gets out of town most weekends, decided to R.S.V.P. to the dinner. According to an analysis of his schedule, this is only his 24th in Washington out of 118 as president. He has spent all or part of 227 days of his presidency at one of his homes in Delaware, according to Mark Knoller, a former CBS correspondent who has tracked presidential movements since the Ford era.
The coronavirus temporarily derailed the event in 2020 and 2021, but last year, Mr. Biden joined the city’s elite by packing into a ballroom amid a surge in Covid-19 cases — Trevor Noah! Kim Kardashian hard-launching her (short-lived) romance with Pete Davidson! Also: The First Amendment!
Mr. Biden, safely socially distanced, could not resist pointing out that case numbers were rising: “Do you read any of your own newspapers?” he asked the hooting crowd. He also helpfully reminded the audience that they were among the fellow vaxxed-and-boosted: “Just contact your favorite Fox News reporter. They’re all here. Vaccinated and boosted.”
Expect more presidential ribbing this year, and more hooting. This spring, the coronavirus was shoved to the side along with the world’s other roiling problems, and the plan to party was back in full force. Reporters ran all over Washington like it was a high-powered Sadie Hawkins dance, asking administration officials to sit at tables with them in the 2,600-seat ballroom of the Washington Hilton. (New York Times journalists do not attend the dinner.)
The tickets sell for $375, Tamara Keith, the NPR reporter and president of the White House Correspondents’ Association, said in an interview. The nonprofit takes in some $975,000 from tickets alone, and a large chunk of the revenue goes to scholarships. Ms. Keith said that over the past decade the organization has raised some $1.1 million for scholarships. She said she wrote most of the speech she will deliver this year aboard Air Force One on the president’s trip from Ireland.
At the dinner, journalists receive awards for their work to explain the president and his decision-making to the world, on deadline. This year, Gwen Ifill of the PBS NewsHour and Washington Week and Bill Plante of CBS News will receive posthumous awards to recognize their career achievements.
In his remarks, Mr. Biden is expected to bring up the case of Evan Gershkovich, a reporter for The Wall Street Journal who was formally charged with espionage by the Russian government after his detention in March. Mr. Biden’s administration has vehemently denied those charges.
“It’s always a complicated night,” Ms. Keith said. “There’s comedy, there’s absolutely tragedy with the journalists who are wrongfully detained around the world who we will be holding up at our dinner. And yeah, there has always been, no matter the president, no matter the press corps, a somewhat uncomfortable relationship between the president and the press who covers them. As well there should be.”
According to a roundup by Deadline, guests this year include several cabinet officials, including Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken and Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo. The singer John Legend and Ms. Teigen, a model and lifestyle mogul, are among the celebrities who will attend. Lisa Vanderpump and Ariana Madix, who star in the Bravo reality television series “Vanderpump Rules” are also attending.
Ms. Keith said reporters will also be treated to a “really great message” from Arnold Schwarzenegger, the former governor of California, who will call the news media “an ally of the people.”
And then there are the parties, so many in number that news organizations like Politico and Axios — which are hosting events this year — have accumulated how-to guides for optimizing one’s attendance. The free drinks are plentiful, and the hangovers will be lingering until Sunday morning, when there will be more parties. After that, there are only 364 days or so until the next dinner.