Kim Kardashian, Joe Biden, and Trevor Noah Bring Back the White House Correspondents Dinner

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“I’m really excited to be here tonight with the only group of Americans with a lower approval rating than I have,” President Joe Biden said at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, the annual convocation of journalists, media executives, politicos, and celebrities that returned last night to the Washington Hilton after a two-year pandemic-induced hiatus.

Bejeweled gowns and tuxedos were de rigueur, as was proof of vaccination and a negative COVID test for one of the coveted tickets. Masks and social distancing were not, however causing speculation that the charity gala could turn into a superspreader event. Political circles are still reeling from the aftermath of the Gridiron Dinner on April 3, in which more than 80 people contracted the highly contagious virus, including members of the Biden administration and reporters. (White House chief of staff Ron Klain was one of the few attendees seen wearing an N95 at last night’s event.)

An eclectic ensemble of celebrities walked the red carpet, including reality-TV star Kim Kardashian and Pete Davidson of Saturday Night Live, who were seen speaking with U.S Secretary of State Antony Blinken—a surreal moment. Other guests included Caitlyn Jenner, Brooke Shields, Harry Hamlin and his two daughters, Amelia Gray Hamlin and Delilah Belle Hamlin, Drew Barrymore, Rob Lowe, and Martha Stewart. Sources also spotted Symone Sanders, MSNBC anchor and former chief spokeswoman for Vice President Kamala Harris, caressing the velvet lapels of NYC rapper Fat Joe during the pre-dinner reception.

Vice President Kamala Harris, who recently tested positive, and Dr. Anthony Fauci, 81, skipped the dinner as a health precaution. The White House Correspondents’ Association said it required same-day antigen testing for its dinner attendees even before the Gridiron outbreak. It then added a vaccination requirement.

There were rumblings as to whether or not President Biden, 79, and First Lady Dr. Jill Biden, 70, should attend with 2,600 guests in a crowded ballroom with limited ventilation. The organizers and the White House devised a plan to limit the Bidens’ time on stage and skip the dinner ahead of the speeches.

Barack Obama used to relish taking on the role of standup comedian for the customary presidential address, but Donald Trump refused to attend at all during his time in office. When Biden’s turn came, he reminded the audience that he was the first president to attend the dinner in six years: “We had a horrible plague—and two years of COVID.” The crowd roared with laughter.

Biden went on to sling barbs at FOX News and Republicans. “There’s nothing I can say about the GOP that Kevin McCarthy hasn’t already put on tape,” he said, a direct reference to an audio recording released Tuesday by The New York Times. House Minority Leader McCarthy (R-Calif.) told fellow Republican leaders just days after the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol that Trump’s far-right allies in the House are “putting people in jeopardy” with their public tweets and comments.

Ending his speech, Biden spoke of the vital role journalism plays in American democracy and gave a toast to the fourth estate. “I mean this from the bottom of my heart, that you, the free press, matter more than you ever did in the last century,” he said. “You are the guardians of the truth.” The dinner also paid tribute to pioneer journalists of color, aspiring student reporters, and a dedication to the journalists detained, injured, or killed during the coverage of the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Following Biden’s speech, Trevor Noah, host of The Daily Show, kicked off his comedy set with this anxiety-inducing line: “It is my great honor to be speaking tonight at the nation’s most distinguished superspreader event.”

He added, “You spent the last two years telling everyone the importance of wearing masks and avoiding large indoor gatherings, and the second someone offers you a free dinner, you all turn into Joe Rogan.”

He teased White House press secretary Jen Psaki for attending the soiree. “Really glad you could make it tonight, Jen. Nice that you’re willing to risk coming here and getting COVID for what, the tenth time?” Psaki had contracted the virus twice—first in October and then again in March, just hours before joining Biden on a trip to Brussels.

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