(April 30, 2022)
10:07 p.m. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. Thanks thanks thanks. Thank you, Steve, for this presentation. And a special thank you to the 42% of you who cheered. (Laugh.)
I’m really excited to be here tonight with the only group of Americans with a lower approval rating than mine. (Laughs.) It’s hard to say after what we just saw. (Laugh.)
This is the first time a president has attended this dinner in six years. (Applause.) That’s understandable. We had a horrible plague followed by two years of COVID. (Laughter and applause.)
Imagine if my predecessor came to this dinner this year. Now, it really would have been a real coup if that had happened. (Laughs.) A bit harsh, huh? (Laugh.)
But I’m honored to be here at such an event with so much history.
As already mentioned, the very first president to attend the White House Correspondents’ Dinner was Calvin Coolidge in 1924. I had just been elected to the United States Senate. (Laughs.) And I remember… I remember saying to him, “Cal, be yourself. Stand up and speak from your heart. You’re gonna be awesome, kid. You will do well. (Laugh.)
Of course Jill is with me tonight. Jilly, how are you, kid? (Applause.) I think – I think she’s doing an amazing job as First Lady. (Applause.) The First Lady to continue to work full time, and she does so as a teacher.
She doesn’t pay much attention to the polls, although she said the other day: Instead of introducing myself as Jill Biden’s husband, maybe I should introduce myself as her roommate. (Laugh.)
I have attended this dinner several times, but this is my first time as president. And the organizers had – struggled – made it quite difficult for me tonight. Although the good news is that if all goes well, I have a real shot at replacing James Corden. (Laugh.)
It was great having him at the White House the other day, just when he announced he was leaving the show. A great interpreter comes out of it after eight years of work. Seems fair to me. (Laughter and applause.)
And it’s hard to keep up with pros like James and Billy Eichner. Billy, where are you again? Have you – where is he?
Well, Billy, you’re famous for interviews – your interviewing skills. Billy, you should know what you’re doing, mate. You know it, you know it well. And you should – I think you should host “Meet the Press”. Maybe they’ll start watching it again. (Laugh.)
I never had to — (laughs) — never had to — (laughs) — I never had to open — I never will — I will never be invited to “Meet the Press” again. In any event. (Laugh.)
I never had to open before Trevor Noah. Trevor is awesome. When I got elected, he did a show and he called me “America’s new dad.” (Laughs.) Let me tell you something, mate: I’m flattered that anyone would call me anything “new”. (Laughs.) You are my guy.
And, my friends, the last few years have been difficult for the country. That’s one of the reasons it’s great to be here again.
Everyone in the White House is so excited. I told my grandkids and Pete Buttigieg they could stay up late and watch this show tonight. (Laughter and applause.)
Tonight – tonight we come here and answer a very important question in everyone’s mind: why the hell do we keep doing this? (Laugh.)
I know there are – I know there are questions about whether we should meet here tonight because of COVID. Well, we are here to show the country that we are going through this pandemic. Additionally, everyone had to prove that they were fully vaccinated and boosted. (Applause.)
So if you’re at home watching this and wondering how to do this, just reach out to your favorite Fox News reporter. They’re all here, vaccinated and boosted — all of them. (Laughter and applause.)
And, look, Fox – Fox News, I’m – I’m so sorry that your favorite candidate lost the last election. To make up for it, I’m happy to give you my chief of staff so he can tell Sean Hannity what he needs to say every day. (Laugh.)
In fact, Ron Klain is here at the CBS table, which has hired Mick Mulvaney. Mike, on CBS? I was stunned. I thought he would end up on “The Masked Singer” with Rudy. (Laugh.)
Incredible rental, guys. Really quite amazing.
Look, I know this is a tough town. I came to power with an ambitious program and expected it to face strong opposition in the Senate. I was just hoping it would be Republicans. (Laugh.)
But I’m not worried about the mid-terms. I don’t worry about them. We could end up with a more partisan stalemate, but I’m confident we can overcome that in my remaining six years as president. (Applause.)
And, folks, I’m not really here to roast the GOP. Its not my style. Plus, there’s nothing I can say about the GOP that Kevin McCarthy hasn’t already recorded. (Laugh.)
And, you know, at the same time – at the same time, a lot of people say the Republican Party is too extreme, too divisive, too one-person controlled. They say, “It’s not your father’s Republican Party.”
Ronald Reagan said, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall. Today’s Republicans say, “Tear down Mickey Mouse’s house.” (Laughs.) And pretty soon they’ll be storming Cinderella’s castle, you can be sure.
But the Republicans seem to support a guy – a guy named Brandon. (Laughs.) He’s having a great year, and I’m pretty happy for him. (Laughter and applause.)
Let me end with a serious word.
We live in serious times. We are going through a devastating pandemic and we must remain vigilant. I know Kamala wanted to be here, for example, and luckily she’s fine. You should all know that she sends her best. (Applause.)
We are in a time when what we have taken for so long for granted is facing the gravest of threats. And I’m dead serious.
Oversee [sic] – Abroad, the liberal world order that has laid the foundations for global peace, stability and prosperity since World War II is under genuine and serious attack.
And at home, a poison runs through all of our democracy – all of this unfolding with massively rising misinformation, where truth is buried by lies and lies endure as truth.
Which is clear – and I say this from the bottom of my heart – that you, the free press, matter more than you ever have in the last century. (Applause.) No, I really do.
I have always believed that good journalism holds up a mirror to reflect on the good, the bad and the true. Tonight, I would like to congratulate the winners and scholarship recipients who carry on this sacred tradition.
We have all seen the courage of the Ukrainian people through the courage of the American journalists in this room and your colleagues around the world who are on the ground, taking their lives into their own hands. (Applause.)
And even if it’s not in Ukraine, it’s
Russia [Syria] – Mom, I would like to meet you and dad to talk about your son.
We just – we just saw heartbreaking video: Nine killed while reporting from Kyiv – hit by kamikaze drone strike after mall attack; shot in the neck when he advised against [sic] – while – while documenting fleeing Ukrainians; killed when Russian missiles hit the television tower in a residential area. A Radio Liberty journalist was just killed a few days ago.
So many of you are telling stories, taking photos and recording videos of what is happening there, the unvarnished truth shown — showing the — the destruction and the devastation and, yes, the war crimes.
Tonight we also honor the legacy of two historic journalists, namely Alice Dunnigan and Ethel Payne. I’m glad you saw that tonight. (Applause.) I didn’t know you did that. They were the first black women to be White House reporters who broke convention to cover a segregated nation.
We pay tribute to the journalists killed, missing, imprisoned, detained and tortured; cover up war, expose corruption and hold leaders accountable.
We honor members of the press, national and local, covering a unique pandemic in a century where we lost a million Americans, a generation relying on race, and the existential threat of climate change.
The free press is not the enemy of the people, far from it. At best, you are the keepers of the truth.
President Kennedy once said, and I quote: “Without debate, without criticism, no administration, no country can succeed,
and no republic can survive.
The First Amendment gives a free press extraordinary protection, but with it comes, as many of you know, a very onerous obligation: to seek the truth as best you can – not to inflame or entertain, but to enlighten and educate.
I know it’s hard. And I’m not worried. The industry is changing considerably.
There is incredible pressure on all of you to provide heat instead of light, because technology is changing so much that the system is changing. But it is important. No kidding. It matters. The truth matters.
American Democracy is not a reality TV show. (Applause.) This is not a reality show. (Applause.) This is reality itself. And the reality is that we are a big country.
Our future is bright. It is not guaranteed, because democracy is never guaranteed. It must be earned. It must be defended. He must be protected.
As you have heard me say time and time again: there is nothing this country can’t do when we are united and do it together. And I know we can do whatever we want, that’s right.
I’ve been here a long time, as has been pointed out many times tonight. (Laughs.) But I give you my word as Biden: I’ve never been more optimistic about America than I am today. I really think so.
In times of enormous change, it presents enormous opportunities. Because despite all the crises, all the partisanship, all the shouting and the showmanship,
I really know it and you know it too: we are a great nation because we are fundamentally a good people.
And here in America, good journalism, good satire of our leaders, of our society is essentially an American thing. This demonstrates the power of our example.
And I, being honest with God, believe that reveals our soul–the soul of our nation. And that’s what I’d like to toast to tonight, if I may.
(The President makes a toast.)
To journalists and their families, to the people and their elected officials, to the United States of America. (Applause.)
And besides, Madeleine Albright was right: We are the indispensable nation. (Applause.)
Ladies and gentlemen, I’m going to turn it over to Trevor now, strap myself into my seat. (Laugh.)
And, Trevor, the really good news is this: Now you can roast the President of the United States and, unlike Moscow, you won’t go to jail. (Laugh.)
The podium is yours. (Applause.)
10:21 p.m. EDT