Biden roasts Trump at correspondents’ dinner

The president moved on to Trump’s criminal trial in New York, where he is accused of falsifying business records to cover up a hush money payment…reports Asian Lite News

Joe Biden has shown no mercy to Donald Trump with a series of barbed jokes about his election rival, telling a gathering of Washington’s political and media elites: “I’m a grown man running against a six-year-old.”

The White House Correspondents’ Association (WHCA) dinner on Saturday night provided the ideal platform for Biden to continue a recent run of taking the fight to Trump with more aggressive rhetoric, cutting humour and personal insults.

But the jovial mood inside the room contrasted sharply with raucous demonstrations outside the Washington Hilton hotel. Hundreds of protesters shouted “Shame on you!” at White House officials, journalists and celebrities as they arrived at the dinner, condemning Biden’s handling of the war in Gaza and the media’s coverage of it.

As speculation about a debate between the two men intensifies, Biden – wearing tuxedo and black tie – opened his roast with a direct but joking focus on Trump, calling him “sleepy Don”, in reference to a nickname Trump had given the president previously.

“The 2024 election is in full swing and yes, age is an issue,” noted Biden, 81. “I’m a grown man running against a six-year-old.”

The president also skewered Trump over a recent speech in which he described the civil war battle at Gettysburg as “interesting”, “vicious”, “horrible” and “beautiful”. Biden said: “Speaking of history, did you hear what Donald just said about a major civil war battle? ‘Gettysburg – wow!’ Trump’s speech was so embarrassing, the statue of Robert E Lee surrendered again.”

Biden then made a reference to Trump’s falling out with his former vice-president, Mike Pence, who defied him over the 2020 election result. The president said: “Age is the only thing we have in common. My vice-president actually endorses me.” Vice-president Kamala Harris, sitting nearby on stage, laughed and applauded.

The president moved on to Trump’s criminal trial in New York, where he is accused of falsifying business records to cover up a hush money payment to adult film performer Stormy Daniels. Biden said: “Donald has had a few tough days lately. You might call it Stormy weather.”

And then he brought up Trump’s recent scheme to sell “God Bless the USA Bibles” for $59.99. “Trump’s so desperate he started reading those Bibles he’s selling. Then he got to the first commandment: ‘You shall have no other gods before me.’ That’s when he put it down and said: “This book’s not for me.’”

Biden also poked fun at his own age and delivered some one-liners at the expense of the media. “Some of you complained that I don’t take enough of your questions. No comment.”

He added: “The New York Times issued a statement blasting me for ‘actively and effectively avoiding independent journalists’. Hey, if that’s what it takes to get the New York Times to say I’m active and effective, I’m for it.”

The president also struck a serious note, urging the media to stayed focused on the implications of November’s election. “I’m sincerely not asking you to take sides,” he said. “I’m asking you to rise up to the seriousness of the moment. Move past the horse-race numbers and the gotcha moments, and the distractions, the sideshows that have come to dominate and sensationalise our politics and focus on what’s actually at stake.”

There was also some gallows humour from Colin Jost, a comedian on the TV variety show Saturday Night Live, six months before an election that could see the return of Trump, who boycotted this event during his presidency and has called the media “the enemy of the people”. Jost said: “I’m honoured to be here hosting what is, according to swing state polls, the final White House correspondents’ dinner.”

Jost’s wife, the actor Scarlett Johansson, was among the 2,600 guests at the dinner along with Da’Vine Joy Randolph, Jon Hamm and Chris Pine. The comedian said: “The last time I was in DC I left my cocaine at the White House. Luckily, the president was able to put it to good use for his State of the Union.”

Biden’s age was naturally a target. “I’m not saying both candidates are old, but you know Jimmy Carter is out there thinking, ‘I could maybe win this thing.’ He’s only 99.”

Both speeches were well received. Chris Sununu, the Republican governor of New Hampshire, praised Biden while taking a dig at his age: “The president made it through the speech so that’s a win for him at such a late hour. It’s never easy as a politician to deliver a joke. We’re not made to be funny. Don’t expect us to be funny. So any time you’re a politician, you get even a slight laugh, that’s a win.”

President Donald Trump talks on the phone aboard Air Force One during a flight to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to address a joint gathering of House and Senate Republicans, Thursday, January 26, 2017. This was the President’s first Trip aboard Air Force One. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

Chants of ‘shame on you’ greet guests

Earlier, guests ran the gauntlet of anti-war demonstrations outside the hotel, taking place after more than two dozen Palestinian journalists in Gaza released a public letter last week calling on their colleagues in the US to boycott the dinner.

“Shame on you!” protesters draped in the traditional Palestinian keffiyeh cloth shouted, running after men in tuxedos and suits and women in long dresses holding clutch purses as guests hurried inside for the dinner.

The demonstrators chanted “Shame on you for breaking bread!” and “Every time the media lies, a journalist in Gaza dies”. They held signs that said, “ABC: All Bullshit Constantly”, “CNN: Criminal News Network”, “Two-faced genocide Joe” and a giant banner that read, “Stop media complicity in genocide”. They laid out dozens of blue press vests, broken cameras and projected images of Palestinian journalists who have been killed.

Protester Ramah Kudaimi, 37, said: “It is shameful that while over 133 Palestinian journalists have been killed over the past almost seven months by the Israeli military, doing nothing more than covering what’s happening, the genocide in Gaza, journalists here in the US are partying it up with White House officials including President Biden in this moment when they are so complicit in what’s happening by continuing to send weapons to Israel, by continuing to refuse any sort of accountability for the war crimes Israel’s committing.”

Another demonstrator, who gave her name only as Yara, 24, said: “135 Palestinian journalists have been murdered at the hands of Israel since 7 October. They’ve asked to boycott this dinner. That call is not coming from organisers in DC; that is coming from the Palestinians in Gaza so we are asking that people heed that call and boycott the dinner tonight.”

She added: “It symbolises that everyone in that room does not care about the freedom of the press if they don’t care about the murder of press.”

Biden’s speech, which lasted about 10 minutes, made no mention of the ongoing war or the growing humanitarian crisis in Gaza. One of the few mentions came from Kelly O’Donnell, president of the correspondents’ association, who noted the deaths of journalists covering the war.

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