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The White House Correspondents' Dinner. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired April 25, 2015 - 22:00   ET


[22:00:00] POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: And it's angered a lot of White House correspondents who feel like they haven't gotten their questions answered. How do you -- how do you think this administration has walked that line now that you're not part of it anymore?

JON FAVREAU, FORMER OBAMA CHIEF SPEECHWRITER: You know, I mean, look, I think that the White House correspondents get plenty of chances to ask questions on a daily basis, but I also think, in this new media environment, where people are getting their news and tuning in all kinds of different mediums, whether it's YouTube, or whether it's comedy shows and places like that, you've got to meet people where they are and you've got to talk to people where they are.

And if the administration, you know, wants to get its message out and wants to reach people, it's got to go find them with these shows they're watching, with the way they're getting their news. And so --

HARLOW: Let me push back a little bit, because I get you got to meet them where they are. But oftentimes, meeting them is a one-way street, right? You're putting the message out there, they're not able to ask questions, or if they posed a lot of questions on Twitter, you select which ones you answer, right?

I mean, my friend Brianna Keilar said, three years as a White House correspondent, she got two questions then.

FAVREAU: I think the correspondents get plenty of questions. I think the president takes questions from reporters constantly, and the White House has to answer questions from reporters constantly, and look, I also think when he does, when the president does "The Daily Show", when the president does "The Tonight Show", he gets questions from the host, they're substantive, he's talked about the American people, he's answering questions, just like he would from the journalists, and the questions are very similar.

HARLOW: I'm going to bring in Patrick Gavin, because he's a former "Politico" reporter and I think he has a question for you, too, on this front.


HARLOW: And someone who just did a whole documentary called "Nerd Prom" about this.

I mean, you make the arguments that --

FAVREAU: Congratulations.

HARLOW: -- no, I mean, that the president hasn't -- the press doesn't got any access it should.


I mean, Jon, I guess I just ask -- I mean, obviously, you're right that the press secretary takes a lot of questions and no White House correspondents would disagree with that. I think where they would differentiate is that the president himself is not taking as many questions from White House correspondents as possible.

But, you know, I mean, you guys -- not you guys, but the administration obviously has their position, the White House correspondents continue to maintain there. Why is there that's gap that despite the fact that the administration under pressure will sort of pull out, you know, a lot of the stats that you mentioned and a lot of points that they mentioned. White House correspondents haven't moved at all from their position, which is pretty much uniformed across the briefing room.


GAVIN: That in fact this president has been sort of more restrictive towards press. I mea, is there a middle ground where you guys can come together, or is just going to be the administration sort of saying their talking points and the White House correspondents having their roster complaints. Or is there any way in the middle that the two can meet?

FAVREAU: I mean, look, I think if you're a reporter and you're doing your job, you're trying to get more access. That's what reporters are always going to do. So, no matter how much access they get, they're always going to want to get more. They're always going to ask more questions. That's great, that's their job.

But I think that the White House always makes sure that, you know, the president gives press conferences, like this some gave one recently where -- you know, a reporter will stand up and ask four or five hard questions and the president will have to answer it. I think he takes plenty of questions. And --

HARLOW: Hey --

FAVREAU: Go ahead.

HARLOW: Hey, Jon, I wanted to ask you this question, because in reading all about you, I'm fascinated by the fact that you were 27 when you took this job to be the top speechwriter for the president, and frankly having to make the decision eventually to leave. I mean, he didn't want you to leave. I think you were on Air Force One or something, and he sensed that you wanted to be a screenwriter and go to Hollywood and do that. And I just wonder, for you, if you can take us a little bit inside the mind of the president on a night like tonight, I know he's very involved in his speeches often times. He always wants to be self- deprecating. Does he get nervous? What is he doing preparing?

FAVREAU: He doesn't get nervous for these. He actually really likes delivering jokes. He's got great comedic timing as you've seen over the last couple of years. And, you know, he doesn't pay too much attention at this until maybe the week before, and then really starts digging in, looking at the jokes. He ad libs a lot himself, he changes lines. He's adding jokes right up until the end.

And, then, you know, he kinds of practice practices his timing and has fun with it, you know? So I think it's great.

HARLOW: Yes, we did this poll on the show tonight and people by far thought he was the most funny of the past three presidents.

All right, we're going to get a quick break in. Jon, have a great time tonight. Thanks for hanging with us.

FAVREAU: Thank you.

HARLOW: And right now, you're seeing scholarship winners, getting scholarships, tonight being handed out by the first lady. They're at the White House Correspondents' Dinner.

We're going to take a quick break as we wait for the president to speak.



[22:07:48] JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: The weirdest, but also maybe one of the most fun moments at the White House Correspondents Association Dinner came when President Obama was doing his mock Richard Sherman rant, and used me as the guy giving him guff, which honestly as a White House correspondent you're supposed to be challenging the president. So, that was fun and something of an honor.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Seattle Seahawk cornerback Richard Sherman is here tonight and he gave me some great tips on how to handle it.

Jake Tapper, don't you ever talk about me like that. I'm the best president in the game.

What do you think, Richard? Was that good? A little more feeling next time.


HARLOW: And Jake Tapper will continue to put the heat on politicians as the new host of CNN's "STATE OF THE UNION". Guys, welcome back to our special coverage of the White House

Correspondents Dinner here as we await hearing from President Obama and seeing how funny he is this year and who his jokes are pointed at this year.

Errol Louis, to you. What do you think the president will open up with this year and what do you think he should focus on?

ERROL LOUIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think he should -- the last time I went was in 2009. The points where he went beyond the expected jokes, the political jokes, was he took some real digs at the press, not over their coverage, but over things like, you know, falling viewerships, stuff like that, which really didn't go over all that well. You know, it gets back to what you're supposed to do.

This is one of these rare moments where you can stick the knife in and say some things that you wouldn't normally be able to say as president in the course of normal conversation. And I thought it got a real sort of ruffle throughout the crowd and he said, oh, yes, that's not funny, right?

HARLOW: As D.L. says, you want to make him a little uncomfortable.

D.L. HUGHLEY, COMEDIAN: Yes, this is taking longer than the Bruce Jenner press conference. I think --

HARLOW: Press conference? It was a two-hour special last night.

HUGHLEY: No, I think, to me, I love the idea, and I think that even you alluded to this. I love the idea of somebody taking a snapshot of what's really happening and showing it for people to see, because, you know, we -- I know we've said this ad nauseam, but as we're waiting for the president and the event to start, we know that what's going on in Baltimore, and I really think that that's a place where a lot of people in the country really are concerned.

[22:10:16] HARLOW: Absolutely.

Laurie, let's talk about it. I mean, you're watching what people are saying on social media.

LAURIE SEGALL, CNN MONEY TECH CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it's interesting, because much of the conversation is, you know, talking about, hey, everyone's wining and dining and this is happening 50, 60 miles away. So, you can't ignore that.

You know there's so much tension happening over there and so many influential people in this room. So, I would love nothing more than maybe for President Obama to say something about that. Maybe call everyone else, and say we should be --

HARLOW: Well, especially after the Baltimore situation, the death of Freddie Gray and yesterday the police chief of Baltimore saying, he didn't get the medical attention he should have gotten, when he should have gotten it. And you have people incredibly angry at that as well.

Tara, how do you think that should be addressed, if it is addressed tonight? And do you think that -- do you agree with D.L.?

TARA SETMAYER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I don't think it will be addressed tonight, because that's not what tonight is supposed to be about. If the president injects that level of politics into this, I think it could that --

HARLOW: Well, how is that politics?

SETMAYER: Well, it's a local issue right now, and it's something that I think that, it's an ongoing investigation. There's still -- every time the president injects himself in these kinds of things, it usually comes back to haunt him. So, I think tonight, they probably want to play it safe, wait to see what's going on and I'm sure he will address it later. But I don't think that they will address that tonight.

HARLOW: But, Patrick, to you, I would just say, Baltimore is not really a local issue, right? You're talking about Ferguson on, Staten Island, Eric Garner.

GAVIN: Yes. I mean, I think as you were saying earlier, I think he'll address it in the end. But if I could make a different point on media coverage and play my role as sort of a skunk at the garden party tonight. So --

HARLOW: You're not a skunk.

GAVIN: But I will say, I mean, and I'll probably get kicked off set for saying this, but we have to admit that we're sort of part of the problem here, if we're saying that this weekend isn't about White House correspondents, is it about scholarships? They've been talking about that stuff on stage for the past hour. They have been giving away scholarships. We haven't covered that.

HARLOW: We haven't covered it.

GAVIN: I understand why, I'm sure that viewers might tune out. I mean, that's maybe the sad reality of it. I think during one of the commercial break, Christie Parsons, the head of the association, was talking about a "Washington Post" reporter who's currently imprison in Iran right now.

HARLOW: Actually --

GAVIN: These are important issues that we should be paying more attention to.

HARLOW: So two things -- so, we are talking about it, but I hear your point, absolutely and you address it well in your documentary. And, you know, we -- as you mentioned with "The Washington Post," they have a hashtag --

GAVIN: Yes, #freejason.

HARLOW: #freejason, because their bureau chief in Tehran has been in prison for months on end, not even knowing the charges against him. So, they're doing it in that way. Is it better -- are you saying we should not be covering this at all?

GAVIN: I guarantee you, if you're to flip the table, flip the channels, I'm sure everyone else is skipping the scholarship portion.


HARLOW: Not C-SPAN, they're airing it all.

GAVIN: If you want to become part of the solution, Christy Parsons, I imagine, was giving a very eloquent speech.

HARLOW: The head of the White House Correspondents Association.

GAVIN: That's right. I know she was planning to making important remarks about the importance of White House correspondents, about the difficulties of access to the administration, these are things that American people I think need to know about.

So, I would encourage the networks, not just CNN, to maybe turn their cameras on that.

So, don't kick me out. Sorry.

HARLOW: Fair point. We can always do it next year.

My executive producer will love it if I promise they were going to play them. But it is -- you do have to watch --

SETMAYER: You have touched on that and you have pushed back with the people in the administration or former administration officials about that lack of access, and I think that's something that cannot go without being discussed. I mean, we were talking during the break about how it's traditional for imagery to be controlled, but not like the way it is here in this administration. I mean, they put journalists -- that's Major Garrett, right?

HARLOW: We're still showing our viewers, just so you know what we're looking at. Some of the awards that are being handed out to fellow journalists. My colleague Brianna Keilar got one of these last year and we're waiting for the president to speak.

Laurie, do you think that the average viewer, do they even know this is a dinner about access for journalists?

SEGALL: Yes, I do not believe that they do know that. I don't mean to be kind of the bearer of bad news. But I guess --

GAVIN: We got a skunk and a bear.


SEGALL: But that's why we talk about it and raise awareness for this kind of thing. We talk a little bit about online and controlling the message and how that's been bad, but looking at Twitter now and being able to see people are angry about something, they're beginning to talk about it, it's beginning to go viral. [22:15:01] That's the power of social media, which is really


You know, even as a journalist, you can utilize these kind of tools and something really interesting and great can happen. So, I think people might not know that this event is for this, but they can certainly learn about it. We can certainly talk about it, and it's a fun event, and there are lots of great content coming out of it.


HUGHLEY: I think that the press is very important, obviously. It is a tentative American life.

But I think, when I, the only reason that politics matter to people is how it affects their life. And there's not a more stark example, and at the risk you've been a skunk, you've been a bear, I guess I'll be the black cat. There's not a more stark example of how people can affect people's lives, when you watch these things, as a black man, who has a black son who might get stopped by the police.

I don't see as a local issue. I think it's a national issue, even if the perception by one community that it's rampant and one that it isn't, I think these are the times -- this is specifically what politicians are there to do, is to provide -- is to give -- is to have an impact on people's lives. To me, to watch these things happen over and over again, and to see nothing significant come from it, and to have people who are in a position to say something about it not, especially at a time when everybody's looking at it, particularly the press, is to me a failing on what this event is about.

LOUIS: I wouldn't beat up on ourselves too much. This is always about choices. I mean, you have to make a decision. What are you going to do with these two hours of time? CNN made its decisions and is sticking to its plan and so forth.

If people want to know -- yes, 12 people were arrested. Baltimore police have tweeted that. You can find that out. You can find the live feed, if you want to watch what's going on. It sounds like complete chaos.

The cops apparently are keeping people in Camden yard where the Orioles game is winding down. They don't want more people going into the street.

HARLOW: We don't have that confirmed.

LOUIS: No, none of this is confirmed, but this is what I'm seeing on Twitter. So you can find out what you want to find out. And, you know, something else is going on, the most powerful man in the world is going to tell some jokes.

It's an odd sort of set of circumstances, but it was odd when he told jokes on the day that they were killing bin Laden. We don't control a lot of this stuff. You know, so we sort of make our best choices and we'll catch up, people will be informed, find out about the scholarship winners, and what happens in the streets of Baltimore by this time tomorrow.

HARLOW: We're continuing to watch some of these scholarship winners who are getting their awards. And we're waiting for the president to speak, like to get your take, Patrick, before we do hear the president, on what the year has been like for you making this documentary.

I don't know if we have any clips of it, that we can show as we talk, but what has it been like for you? You went to this and you criticized yourself for asking really lame questions, and not being the journalist that you were proud to be at this event. So, what sparked you to make the documentary and what was the process like in terms of the access to cover it?

GAVIN: I decided to do it because I don't know if most Americans know, but this is Washington's biggest event every year, which always struck me as odd, because it's a town built on representing others, built on civic mindedness, and yet you probably don't see that right now on the TV screen.

I mean, this is -- that's an event about self-celebration, not about celebrating people around the country. For me, the thing that I really take away from it was, there's this attitude in Washington, to my movie and also to this event. Most people in D.C. would tell you, it's over the top and it doesn't reflect that well on us, but it's just a dinner, who cares, you're sort of over-analyzing it?

And that's a big problem. I mean, Washington, D.C. reporters and journalists alike have a 10 percent approval rating. So, we're not in a position to start not caring about our biggest moment every year, reflecting poorly on us. If we're ever going to get the approval rating up, and get the respect of Americans, we have to have or biggest moments every year reflect well on us, to be about serving others, not serving ourselves, and doing well by others, instead of by ourselves.

HARLOW: And let's listen to Kristi Parson, the head of the White House Correspondents Association about to introduce the president.

KRISTI PARSON, WHCA PRESIDENT: Mr. President, we appreciate your presence here and we recognize it as your affirmation of the importance of the free and adversarial press.


Ladies and gentlemen, please join me, raise a glass in a toast to the president of the United States of America.


PARSON: The podium is yours.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The president, often criticized for his caution, is now doing things his own way. [22:20:00] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's cut a climate deal with China.

He's issued an immigration order. We'll see how far he can take it.




BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Good evening, everybody. Welcome to the White House Correspondents' Dinner, the night when Washington celebrates itself.

Somebody's got to do it.

And welcome to the fourth quarter of my presidency. It's true, I --


That was Michelle cheering.


Fact is, I feel more loose and relaxed than ever. Those Joe Biden shoulder massages, they're like magic.


You should try one. Oh, you have?

I am determined to make the most of every moment I have left. After the midterm elections, my advisers asked me, "Mr. President, do you have a bucket list?" And I said, "Well, I have something that rhymes with bucket list."


Take executive action on immigration -- bucket.


New climate regulations -- bucket. It's the right thing to do.


And my new attitude is paying off. Look at my Cuba policy. The Castro brothers are here tonight.


Welcome to America, amigos. Que pasa?

What? It's the Castros from Texas? Oh.

Hi, Joaquin. Hi, Julian. Anyway, being president is never easy. I still have to fix a broken immigration system, issue veto threats, negotiate with Iran, all while finding time to pray five times a day.


Which is strenuous.

And it is no wonder that people keep pointing out how the presidency has aged me. I look so old, John Boehner's already invited Netanyahu to speak at my funeral.


Meanwhile, Michelle hasn't aged a day.


I asked her what her secret is, she just says, "Fresh fruits and vegetables".


It's aggravating.


Fact is, though, at this point, my legacy is finally beginning to take shape. Economy's getting better. Nine in 10 Americans now have health coverage.


Today, thanks to Obamacare, you no longer have to worry about losing your insurance, if you lose your job.

You're welcome, Senate Democrats.


No, look, it is true. I have not managed to make everybody happy. Six years into my presidency, some people still say I'm arrogant and aloof, condescending. Some people are so dumb.


No wonder I don't meet with them.

And that's not all people say about me. A few weeks ago, Dick Cheney says he thinks I'm the worst president of his lifetime, which is interesting because I think Dick Cheney is the worst president of my lifetime.


[22:25:13] Quite a coincidence. Everybody's got something to say these days. Mike Huckabee recently

said people shouldn't join our military until a true conservative is elected president.

Think about that. It was so outrageous 47 ayatollahs wrote us a letter trying to explain to Huckabee how our system works.


It gets worse. Just this week, Michele Bachmann actually predicted that I would bring about the biblical end of days.


Now, that's a legacy.


That's big. I mean, Lincoln, Washington, they didn't do that.


You know, I just had to put this stuff aside. I've got to stay focused on my job, because for many Americans, this is still a time of deep uncertainty.

For example, I have one friend, just a few weeks ago, she was making millions of dollars a year and she's now living out of a van in Iowa.


Meanwhile, back here at our nation's capital, we're always dealing with new challenges. I'm happy to report that the Secret Service, thanks to some excellent reporting by White House correspondents, they're really focusing on some of the issues that have come up, and they finally figured out a fool-proof way to keep people off my lawn.


It works.

It's not just fence-jumpers. Some of you know a few months ago a drone crash-landed out back. That was pretty serious, but don't worry, we've installed a new state of the art security system.


You know what, let me set the record straight. You know, I tease Joe sometimes, but he's been at my side for seven years. I love that man.


He's not just a great vice president, he's a great friend. We've gotten so close in some places in Indiana, they won't serve us pizza anymore.


I want to thank our hosts for the evening, the Chicago girl, the incredibly talented Cecily Strong.


On "Saturday Night Live," Cecily impersonates CNN anchor Brooke Baldwin, which is surprising, because usually the only people impersonating journalists on CNN are journalists on CNN.

ABC is here with some of the stars from their big new comedy "Blackish."


It's a great show, but I have to give ABC fair warning. Being blackish only makes you popular for so long. Trust me.


There's a shelf life to that thing.

As always, the reporters here had a lot to cover over the last year here on the East Coast. One big story was the brutal winner. The polar vortex caused so many record lows, they renamed it MSNBC.


But, of course, let's face it, one reporter on everybody's minds, and that is 2016. Already, we've seen some missteps.

It turns out Jeb Bush identified himself as Hispanic back in 2009, which, you know what, I -- look, I understand.

[22:30:01] It's an innocent mistake. It reminds me of when I identified myself as American back in 1961.


Ted Cruz said that denying the existence of climate change made him like Galileo. Now that's not really an apt comparison. Galileo believed the Earth revolves around the sun. Ted Cruz believes the Earth revolves around Ted Cruz.

And just as an aside, I want to point out, when a guy who has his face on a Hope poster calls you self-centered, you know you've got a problem. The narcissism index is creeping up a little too high.

Meanwhile, Rick Santorum announced that he would not attend the same- sex wedding of a friend or loved one, to which gays and lesbians across the country responded, that's not going to be a problem. Don't sweat that one.


And Donald Trump is here. Still. (LAUGHTER)

Anyway, it's amazing how time flies. Soon, the first presidential contest will take place, and I for one cannot wait to see who the Koch brothers pick. It's exciting.

Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, Jeb Bush, Scott Walker, who will finally get that red rose?


The winner gets a billion dollar war chest. The runner-up gets to be the bachelor on the next season of "The Bachelor."

I mean seriously, a billion dollars from just two guys. Is it just me, or does that feel a little excessive?

I mean, it's almost insulting to the candidates. The Koch brothers think they think to spend a billion dollars to get folks to like one of these people. It's got to hurt their feelings a little bit.

And I know I've raised a lot of money too, but in all fairness, my middle name is Hussein. What's their excuse?


The trail hasn't been easy for my fellow Democrats either. As we all know Hillary's private e-mails got her in trouble. Frankly, I thought it was going to be her private Instagram account that was going to cause her bigger problems.


Hillary kicked things off by going completely unrecognized at a Chipotle. Not to be outdone, Martin O'Malley went completely unrecognized as a Martin O'Malley campaign event.


And Bernie Sanders might run. I like Bernie. Bernie's an interesting guy. Apparently, some folks want to see a pot-smoking socialist in the White House. We could get a third Obama term after all.


It could happen.

Anyway, as always, I want to close on a more serious note. You know, I often joke about tensions between me and the press, but honestly, what they say doesn't bother me. I understand we've got an adversarial system. I'm a mellow sort of guy. And that's why I invited Luther, my anger translator, to join me here tonight.


LUTHER: Hold on to your lily white butts! OBAMA: In our fast-changing world, traditions like the White House

correspondents dinner are important.

[22:35:00] LUTHER: I mean, really! What is this dinner? And why am I required to come to it?

Jeb Bush, do you really want to do this!

OBAMA: Because despite our differences, we count on the press to shed light on the most important issues of the day.

LUTHER: And we can count on FOX News to terrify old white people with some non-sense!



It's ridiculous.

OBAMA: We won't always see eye to eye.

LUTHER: And, CNN, thank you so much for the wall-to-wall Ebola coverage. For two full weeks, we were one step away from "The Walking Dead". Then y'all got up and just moved on to the next thing. That was awesome.

Oh, and by the way, if you haven't noticed, you don't have Ebola!

OBAMA: But I still deeply appreciate the work that you do.

LUTHER: Y'all remember when I had that big old hole in the bottom of the gulf of Mexico, and then I plugged it? Remember that? Which Obama's Katrina was that one? Was that 19 or was it 20, because I can't remember.

OBAMA: Protecting our democracy is more important than ever. For example, the Supreme Court ruled that the donor who gave Ted Cruz $6 million was just exercising free speech.

LUTHER: Yes, it's the kind of speech like this, I just wasted $6 million.

OBAMA: And it's not just Republicans. Hillary will have to raise huge sums of money too.

LUTHER: Aw yeah, she's going to get that money! She's going to get all the money! Khaleesi is coming to Westeros! Watch out! Woo!

OBAMA: The non-stop focus on billionaire donors creates real problems for our democracy.

LUTHER: And that's why we're running for our third term!

OBAMA: No, we're not.

LUTHER: We're not?


LUTHER: Who the hell said that!

OBAMA: But we need to focus on big challenges like climate changes.

LUTHER: Hey, folks, if you haven't noticed, California is bone dry. It looks like a trailer for the new "Mad Max" movie up in there. Y'all think that Bradley Cooper came here because he wants to talk to Chuck Todd? He needed a glass of water!


OBAMA: The science is clear, the science is clear. Nine out of the 10 hottest years ever came in the last decade.

LUTHER: Now I'm not a scientist, but I do know how to count to ten.

OBAMA: Rising seas, more violent storms.

LUTHER: You got mosquitoes, sweaty people on the trains stinking it up. It's just nasty!

OBAMA: I mean, look at what's happening right now. Every serious scientist says we need to act. The Pentagon says it's a national security risk. Miami floods on a sunny day and instead of doing anything about it, we've got elected officials throwing snowballs in the Senate.

LUTHER: OK, I think they got it.

OBAMA: It is crazy! What about our kids? What kind of stupid, short-sided irresponsible bull --

LUTHER: Whoa, whoa whoa, whoa!

OBAMA: What?



OBAMA: What!

LUTHER: All due respect, sir, you don't need anger translator. You need counseling.


LUTHER: And I'm out of here, man. I ain't trying to get into all this.



OBAMA: Luther, my anger translator, ladies and gentlemen.


Now that I got that off my chest -- you know, investigative journalism, explanatory journalism, journalism that exposes corruption and justice gives voice to the different and the marginalized, the voiceless -- that's power. It's a privilege. It's as important to America's trajectory, to our values, our ideals, to anything we could do in elected office.

We remember journalists we lost over the past year. Journalists like Steven Sotloff, and James Foley, murdered for nothing more than trying to shine a light into some of the world's darkest corners.


We remember the journalists unjustly imprisoned around the world, including our own Jason Rezaian.


For nine months, Jason has been imprisoned in Tehran for nothing more than writing about the hopes and the fears of the Iranian people, carrying their stories to the readers of "The Washington Post," in an effort to bridge our common humanity. As was already mentioned, Jason's brother Ali is here tonight and I have told him personally, we will not rest until we bring him home to his family safe and sound.


These journalists and so many others view their work as just a profession, but as a public good, an indispensable pillar of our society, so I want to give a toast to them.

I raise a glass to them and all of you, with the words of the American foreign correspondent Dorothy Thompson.

It is not the fact of liberty but the way in which liberty is exercised that ultimately determines whether liberty itself survives.

Thank you for your devotion to exercising our liberty and to telling our American story. God bless you. God bless the United States of America.


HARLOW: President Barack Obama delivering his remarks, opening with a lot of jokes, including his anger translator coming out and then turning and taking a much more serious note, talking about journalists, American journalists, who have lost their lives, as he said, James Foley, Steven Sotloff, trying to shed light into the darkest corners, talking about the importance of the media especially in the world today. Also talking about "The Washington Post" journalist imprisoned in

Tehran, Jason Rezaian, whose brother Ali is there.

Let's go around the room as we'll wait for Cecily Strong to speaking and get your reactions.

First to you, D.L.

HUGHLEY: In the words of the president, bucket. I like that. I thought it was edgy, it was biting, it was what a lot of it what I hoped another comic would do. But I thought the thing was hilarious. I thought he took some real shots at some people.

HARLOW: Did he go as far as you wanted?

HUGHLEY: Of course -- well, not as far as I wanted, but he took some zingers at some people in the room. You clearly know what he was doing.

HARLOW: Laurie, I'm interested in your take in what's resonating what's most online?

SEGALL: Well, I think people love -- people absolutely love the anger management.

But, you know, but I loved at the end when he kind of brought it back and talked about the power of journalism.

HARLOW: And the responsibility.

SEGALL: And the responsibility. If we look at everything that's happened over the past year, I've never been prouder to be a journalist, when you look at what's happened. Paris with the attacks, if you look at what's happened overseas, and the people overseas that have lost their lives.

I love that he came back to the idea of the responsibility. I thought he did a very good job as a comedian. It thought he's a very, very funny comedian.

HARLOW: As someone who's tracked the president, is that what he typically will do in the end, at these dinners is to come back in that way about journalism?

GAVIN: Yes, but never to that recollection. He's never done a separate toast to the entire Washington press corps and gone to that length, almost in an emotional fashion, so that was great to hear from him, for sure.

HARLOW: It was interesting to me, Errol, how much he focused on campaign finance. Does that strike you?

LOUIS: Yes, yes. To talk about money and politics, this is a guy --

HARLOW: To that extent? LOUIS: -- who has raised no small amount of money.

HARLOW: And who is supporting Hillary Clinton, and they want to raise $2.5 billion.

LOUIS: Well, exactly. Well, you know, to point, you know, look, the Koch brothers are going to dub somebody as the leader, at least on the financial side, when it comes to the Republican nomination. That's extraordinary. It's unusual. It deserved comment and I'm glad he did mention it.

HARLOW: Although I heard Tara saying, plenty of money going to the Democrats, too.

SETMAYER: I thought it was ironic that the president who raised the most campaign money, you know, $1.3 billion or something like that, was talking about billionaires like George Soros who supported him.

But, I mean, the president has good comedic timing. I think some of the shots were very, very biting. The Key & Peele was hilarious.

[22:45:00] But I do, let's just put it in perspective, why he addressed the journalism aspect of this toward the end, A, because he's been criticized resoundingly by the White House Correspondents Association for the lack of access and for what's been going. They also went after his Justice Department went after James Rosen of FOX News, they were bugging his parents e-mail, investigating leaks, what happened with James Risen, there was a blatant attack, if you want to say, of A.P. -- spying on A.P. reporters.

So these things happened under this administration. Then you had two journalists beheaded by ISIS over the summer, and for him not to address that, it was a way of them trying to smooth that over and giving a hat tip because of all of the tragedies that have happened under this administration.

HARLOW: We'll keep talking about it, but right now, they're introducing the woman of the evening, Cecily Strong from "Saturday Night Live."


CECILY STRONG, COMEDIAN: OK. Phil' feels right to have a woman follow President Obama, doesn't it?

Good evening. I'm Cecily Strong. You may know me from "Saturday Night Live," or as the ethnically ambiguous girl from every college brochure. I'm sort of a mash-up of all the people in Hillary Clinton's announcement video.

I'm also the first straight woman to host this in 20 years, so we finally made it, straight people. Where my heterosexuals at, huh? No, you mind (ph). Oh, no.

Now I do need to say something here. Just because I'm a woman, doesn't mean I'm going to go easy on you, people. I'm going to go easy on you people because my brain is smaller.


I feel very lucky to be here. Last year's host, Joel McHale, proves that speaking at this dinner is an amazing opportunity that can take you from starring on a show on NBC, all the way to starring in that same show, but on Yahoo.

I took Amtrak here. It was way more luxurious than I thought. Did you know they had massage seats available on those trains? All you need to do is sit in front of Joe Biden. Those hands don't get tired, somehow.

I hope everyone enjoyed dinner. We tried to get memory's pizza to cater this event, but they heard a rumor Bernie Frank was going to be here. So, thanks a lot, Bernie. We could have had that world famous Indiana pizza.

I can make that joke about Indiana, because I'm from Illinois.

The White House Correspondents' Dinner say chance for all of you to unwind, relax, and laugh as soon as you notice someone slightly more powerful than you is laughing. Feels so weird to be up here, and, OK, I promise, since I'm only a comedian, I'm not going to try to tell you politicians how to do politics, or whatever. That's not my job. Thad be like you guys telling me what to do with my body. I mean, can you even imagine?


Now, tonight's event is being broadcast on C-SPAN, so to some viewers watching at home on C-SPAN, hello. But to most viewers watching at home on C-SPAN, meow.


Now, if you don't know how to find C-SPAN, you just press the guide button on your remote and then hit page up until your thumb cramps up.

Hey, C-SPAN, I just want to do a camera check real quick, OK, camera one -- and that's it. That's all the cameras.

It is great to be here at the Washington Hilton. It's something a prostitute might say to a congressman.

The Washington Hilton, you guys, man, if these walls could talk, they'd probably say, clean me.


You know, it's crazy to think that our president is right here in the ballroom of the Washington Hilton. And it's even crazier to think that our vice president is right now in the ball pit of a Washington Chuck E. Cheese.

[22:50:03] But seriously, the Washington Hilton is great, and I bet that when the president walked in and saw all those bell hops, he thought, finally, some decent security.


No, it's OK. I'm just kidding. Because let's give it up for the Secret Service. Yes.


I don't want to be too hard on those guys, because they're the only law enforcement agency in the country that will get in trouble if a black man gets shot.

Are you saying boo, or are you saying true?

Tonight brings together so many different ways of delivering the news, but you're all in this together, from the networks at the front, to the Internet and cable in the back, all the way to the incredible print journalists who are bussing the tables.


MSNBC is here. I love MSNBC. You know, even their call letters are long-winded, just a great variety of shows. Rachel Maddow, locked up abroad, lock-up raw, lock-up SUV, lock-up Espanol, Lock-up bloopers.

MSNBC shows so many prison documentaries, they're making Ed Schultz get a tear drop tattoo.


FOX News is here. FOX News has been losing a lot of viewers lately and may they rest in peace.


That's nice to say. That channel is all hot blonde ladies and old dudes. You know, every show on FOX News looks like a party scene from "Weekend at Bernie's".

And you got to give it up for CNN. You know, it's just comforting to know that whenever a big story breaks, I can turn to CNN and watch Anthony Bourdain eat a cricket.

"Huffington Post" is here -- hey, way to go on that partnership with AOL. Everyone in my chat room won't stop talking about it.

"BuzzFeed" is here. But I can show you a list of 17 reasons why they shouldn't be.

And you guys, don't forget, "USA Today" is here. Of course they're only here because they were slipped under the hotel door.


Now that's "USA Today" unless today is Saturday or Sunday.


NPR is here. Yes. They're right at the front.

NPR had a lot of success with Sarah Koenig's "Serial" podcasts which finally answered the question, what would it be like if somebody gently whispered an episode of "Dateline"?

And, Sarah, I'm so sorry, you weren't able to get your plus one out of jail in time.

Sarah Koenig must be so pissed about the jinx. It's "Serial" but with an ending. Hey, Sarah, next season, pick someone who definitely did it, like Amanda Knox.

There's DNA on the knife, you guys.

NBC is here. You know, even us at "SNL" got criticized this year for making fun of ISIS. Now, I think that's unfair. I mean, if anyone is guilty of taking ISIS too lightly, it's him, you know?


Oh. And what can I say about Brian Williams? Nothing, because I work for NBC.


Oh, there's so many stars from so many great shows here, we are really in a golden age of television, you know, but I have to say, I still see so many negative portrayals of black and gay people out there. I mean, it's 2015, and we still have TV characters like Don Lemon. It's ridiculous.

Cast of ABC's "Blackish" is here, which I think is very inappropriate after the way they treated those whales at SeaWorld.

Some of the casts of the epic fantasy series "Game of Thrones" is here and they it will me that even they have never seen this many nerds before.

Naomi Campbell is here. Now, Naomi, you're lucky Hillary Clinton is not here, because if you threw your BlackBerry at her, she would just delete everything right off of it.

Hillary Clinton said that she used her private e-mail because she didn't want to use more than two devices. Now, if that sounds familiar, it's because it's also one of the rules from the sex contract in "Fifty Shades of Grey."

[22:55:04] Some of the cost of "Downton Abbey" is here, thanks to a generous donation from the constituents of Aaron Schock.

Speaking of Aaron Schock, you might notice I'm a little tan. I just got back from the most fabulous trip that Aaron took me on, and I brought my Instagram photos to show with you. So, you're probably familiar now with this picture of shack surfing in Hawaii. Can you widen that a little? Yes, see, there's me. By the end, I

didn't even need a surf board. I just used Aaron's abs.

Then we went diving into this cool swimming pool that he had built. It hurt when I landed. Oh, and here's me and Aaron skydiving. Aaron said he made his own parachute out of some gifts his constituents gave him. Isn't that so sweet?

Oh, and here we are at the Eiffel Tower in Paris. Paris is so beautiful.

Mr. President, you should really think about going there sometime. I hear the weather is nice in January.

Now, here we are on our trip to California. We must have done this for hours and hours, just so much wasted water. Fun.

Here we are at Aaron Schock's own dinosaur island.

And here we are after hunting the dinosaurs. Wait, is that Brian Williams? You weren't there. What are you doing, you rascal!

Oh, man, Aaron and I, we just had so much fun, and no, I know what you're thinking, but it was not romantic. It was strictly a friendship trip, he reminded me every day. Thanks for those couple, you.

But just because Aaron Schock resigned doesn't mean there are not any smoking hot congressmen left. I mean, looking out tonight, I see so many 10s. Well, Washington 10s, so New York 4s, Indiana 30s.

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid is retiring after serving more than 30 years in Congress. Now, a lot of people don't know this. Harry Reid was a boxer before he spent five years as a punching bag.

Now, one of my favorite things that happened in Congress this year was when Senator Jim Inhofe brought in a snowball to prove that climate change isn't real. I mean, that blew my mind, I didn't even need to see the other science projects. First prize, Jim. Dang! You brought science to life, man! So cool.

Senator Tom Cotton got 47 other senators to sign an open letter he wrote to Iran. And I guess the most surprising thing is that a guy named Tom Cotton is a U.S. senator and not a rabbit from an old racist Disney cartoon. Oh, please bear don't throw old Tom Cotton in the briar patch.


Now, in Tom Cotton's defense, he was just trying to repair America's strained relationship with Israel. But he doesn't need to worry about that. Our relationship will be better in the next administration, just as soon as Israel makes a generous donation to the Clinton Foundation. True.

Now, it's been a great year for women, as always. This year, representative from Hobby Lobby said they didn't want to pay for employees' health care if it covered things like contraceptives, which is weird, because all I asked him was, which aisle is the yarn in.

Actually, I do love Hobby Lobby. I went there this morning and got the cutest basket to hold all my morning-after pills.

Idaho Representative Vito Barbieri recently asked if gynecological exams could be conducted by a woman swallowing a camera, but they can't, and now Vito and his wife have ruined a perfectly good GoPro.

President Obama came out in support of putting women on money, as opposed to the DEA agents who prefer to put money on women.

So much to talk about this year, but, of course, the big story, the Republicans finally succeed and Obama is being forced out of office in 18 months. You did it!

And there's so many great people have already announced they're running for president. Like who should I even vote for?