President Joe Biden joked about a range of topics at the White House Correspondents’ dinner on Saturday but struck a serious tone as he called for the release of wrongfully detained Americans abroad.
The annual dinner, hosted inside the Washington Hilton, drew thousands of guests in support of freedom of the press, something Biden called “the pillar of a free society, not the enemy.”
Here are the top moments from this year’s dinner.
Biden calls for release of wrongfully detained Americans
Biden used the opportunity to address a crowd gathered to support freedom of the press to send a clear message: “Journalism is not a crime.”
He began his remarks on a serious note and immediately addressed the wrongful detentions of American journalists Evan Gershkovich in Russia and Austin Tice in Syria, reassuring the room full of journalists and the families of the detainees that his administration is committed to bringing them home.
“I promise you, I’m working like hell to get them home,” Biden said.
In attendance Saturday evening was Brittney Griner, the WNBA star who was freed from Russia late last year after being wrongfully detained. Biden and First Lady Jill Biden held a pull-aside meeting with Griner and her wife at the event, per the White House pool.
The president and First Lady also met privately with the family of Gershkovich, a Wall Street Journal reporter that the US State Department has deemed “wrongfully detained” in Russia. Several journalists in attendance wore pins to urge his release.
The daughter of jailed Russian opposition figure Alexey Navanly, Dasha Navalnaya, told CNN earlier Saturday the White House Correspondents’ dinner represents an especially important event for those who are wrongfully detained because “America as a country represents freedom of speech, freedom of political expression.”
Roy Wood Jr. takes aim at Washington
Comedian Roy Wood Jr., known for his role on Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show,” did not hold back in his roast of Washington politics Saturday evening, saving jabs for both parties.
He immediately addressed the classified documents found in Biden’s Delaware home, telling the president as he stepped aside from the podium, “Real quick, Mr. President. I think you left some of your classified documents up here.”
Wood also pointed to protests in France in response to the government raising the retirement age. “Meanwhile in America, we have an 80-year-old man begging us for four more years of work,” he quipped, alluding to Biden’s reelection bid.
But the comedian went on to dub former President Donald Trump the “king of scandals.”
“Keeping up with Trump scandals is like watching Star Wars movies,” he said. “You got to watch the third one to understand the first one, then you got – you can’t miss the second one because it’s got Easter eggs for the fifth one.”
Biden pokes fun at Trump
Biden’s jokes, meanwhile included a number of quips aimed at his predecessor’s recent scandals.
He joked that he was offered $10 to keep his remarks under ten minutes. “That’s a switch, a president being offered hush money,” he joked in reference to Trump’s indictment in an alleged hush money scheme.
Biden also poked fun at Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who is likely to be top candidate for the GOP presidential nomination if he enters the 2024 race.
“I had a lot of Ron DeSantis jokes ready, but Mickey Mouse beat the hell out of me, he got there first,” Biden said.
Disney filed a lawsuit against the governor and his oversight board earlier this week, accusing him of punishing the company for exercising its free speech rights with his political influence.
Journalists celebrated and teased
The White House Correspondents’ dinner honored several journalists for their impactful work last year, including CNN’s Phil Mattingly for his coverage of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s visit to Washington and Politico’s publishing of the Supreme Court draft opinion that would later overturn Roe v. Wade.
While Biden also applauded the journalists for their work, he poked fun at their tough questioning.
“I get that age is a completely reasonable issue, it’s on everybody’s mind,” he said, referring to his reelection bid. “By everyone I mean the New York Times.”
Biden also joked about how he dodges the media’s questions. “In a lot of ways, this dinner sums up my first two years in office: I’ll talk for 10 minutes, take zero questions and cheerfully walk away.”
In recent weeks, the media industry has taken several hits – from high-profile terminations to layoffs, something Wood addressed head on.
“The untouchable Tucker Carlson is out of a job,” Wood said, referring to the anchor’s departure from Fox News, which prompted applause.
“Okay, some people celebrate it,” he responded. “But to Tucker’s staff, I want you to note that I know what you’re feeling. I work at the Daily Show, so I too have been blindsided by the sudden departure of the host of a fake news program.”
Celebrities show out
Saturday’s event saw a number of celebrities in attendance, including model and TV personality Chrissy Teigen and her husband, singer John Legend.
Actress Julia Fox posed with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer while actress Rosario Dawson and actors Liev Schreiber and Billy Eichner all took turns on the red carpet.
During the event, identical twin brothers Drew and Jonathan Scott, who host “Property Brothers” on HGTV, drew big laughs as their sketch-style video showcased how they would renovate the White House.
“We’ve been doing this a long time and we think we know how to turn the White House into the White Home,” the pair said in video.
CNN’s Maegan Vazquez and Aaron Pellish contributed to this report.