Scenes and Best Lines From the WHCA Dinner

From a story on by Rachael Bade, Eugene Daniels, and Ryan Lizza headlined “The best lines and spotteds from WHCD”:

SCENES FROM THE WHCD — BRITTNEY GRINER holding court with GAYLE KING. (“I just got chills,” remarked one nearby partygoer.) … RNC Chair RONNA McDANIEL walking over to DNC Chair JAIME HARRISON, their first in-person meeting. … KELLYANNE CONWAY chatting with Maine Gov. JANET MILLS. … Senate Majority Leader CHUCK SCHUMER posing with JULIA FOX in full “Black Swan” makeup. … NRCC Chair RICHARD HUDSON (R-N.C.) becoming starry-eyed when meeting JUSTIN HARTLEY from his all-time favorite TV show, “This is Us.” …

A climate activist obstructing RON KLAIN’s path into the Hilton. … Tennessee state Rep. JUSTIN PEARSON confronting a woman for pushing his fiancee. … Stars and reporters at the Fox News table looking uncomfortable during jokes about TUCKER CARLSON and the Dominion settlement. … DIANA ROSS performing at TheGrio after-party. … JONATHAN KARL chatting with ANTHONY FAUCI. … Secretary of State ANTONY BLINKEN talking to DASHA and YULIA NAVALNAYA. … JEFF NUSSBAUM chatting with New Hampshire Gov. CHRIS SUNUNU. … JOHN HUDSON talking to CIA Director BILL BURNS.

INSIDE THE BALLRROOM: MOST YEARS THE WHCD dinner is a light-hearted affair, as speakers crack jokes and poke fun at themselves and each other. This year, inside the ballroom, the dinner — while still amusing — had a weightier feel at times.

President JOE BIDEN called out the wrongful detention of EVAN GERSHKOVICH, the WSJ reporter being held in Russia on phony charges of “espionage.” He also recognized AUSTIN TICE, a journalist who’s been held in Syria for over a decade.

The families of both men sat in the audience as Biden called for their loved ones to be “released immediately.” We’re told that at one point, when Biden mentioned how long Tice had been gone, Gershkovich’s family had a visibly distraught reaction. WSJ reporters sought to assure them that Tice’s situation was much different than their son’s.

In the audience, a glimmer of hope: Biden acknowledged Griner, the WNBA star who was detained by Russia for nearly 10 months before being freed in December. The president promised to try to bring both men home — then moved on to praise journalists who go where the story leads, no matter the cost and sacrifice.

“Tonight our message is this: Journalism is not a crime,” Biden said. “I am working like hell to get them home.”

Speakers at the gathering — which hosted more than 2,600 journalists, politicians and other power brokers — also referenced the difficult realities of American journalism back home: a slew of painful recent layoffs at outlets including NPR, BuzzFeed, WaPo, CBS, CNN, ABC, Gannett, Insider and Vice. “These are difficult times in our industry,“ said WHCA President TAMARA KEITH. “There is uncertainty and fear for what the future holds. But we are still here. So let’s stand proud.”

THE FUN STUFF: Of course, the evening’s light-hearted and funny moments provided some needed comic relief. Keith, for instance, had the crowd roaring when she referenced “Broadcast News,” the 1987 movie that inspired her to become a journalist — and pointed out that she was wearing a replica of the dress HOLLY HUNTER’s character wore to the dinner in the movie. The Property Brothers, who were in the audience, recorded a funny video proposing a renovation of the very outdated and rundown press rooms in the White House.

And then came the marquee comedic speeches by Biden and “Daily Show” correspondent ROY WOOD JR., who took jabs at Carlson, ousted CNN host DON LEMON, Florida Gov. RON DeSANTIS and themselves.


— Biden taking a crack at his age: “I believe in the First Amendment. Not just because my good friend JIMMY MADISON wrote it. … You say I’m ancient; I say I’m wise. You say I’m over the hill; Don Lemon would say that’s a man ‘in his prime.’

— Biden on Fox News’ recent costly defamation settlement: “It’s great the cable news networks are here tonight. MSNBC, owned by NBCUniversal. Fox News, owned by Dominion Voting Systems. … Last year, your favorite Fox reporters were able to attend because they were fully vaccinated and boosted. This year, with that $787 million settlement, they’re here because they can’t say no to a free meal.”

— Biden on DeSantis: “I had a lot of Ron DeSantis jokes ready, but Mickey Mouse beat the hell out of me and got to them first.”

— Biden on RUPERT MURDOCH’s age: “How can I dislike a guy who makes me look like HARRY STYLES?”

— Wood, taking the podium right after Biden: “Real quick, Mr. President, I think you left some of your classified documents up here. … I’ll put them in a safe place. He don’t know where to keep them.”

— Wood on VP KAMALA HARRIS getting grilled in the media: “I think the most insulting scandal of the Biden administration was placed at the feet of our Madam Vice President. The scandal of: ‘What does Kamala do?’ … That’s a disrespectful question, because nobody ever asked that question of the vice president until a woman got the job. I don’t know what MIKE PENCE did. The only thing I know about Mike Pence is that he’s really good at playing hide-and-seek at the Capitol.”

— Wood on Carlson’s recent firing: “Some people are celebrating. But to Tucker’s staff: I want you to know 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.”

— Wood on the Dominion lawsuit: “Fox claimed Dominion conspired with the Democrats to rig the election. The Democrats should be flattered that they thought that y’all was smart enough to rig an election.”

— Wood on Lemon’s firing: “Yes, Don Lemon was a diva and he said a couple of women are raggedy in the face. But that’s a promotion at Fox News.”

— Wood on recent reporting about the Supreme Court: “We can all see CLARENCE THOMAS, but he belongs to billionaire HARLAN CROW. And that’s what an NFT is.”

— Wood on Biden’s age: “When the retirement age went up two years to 64 [in France], they rioted because they didn’t want to work till 64. Meanwhile in America, we have an 80-year-old man begging us for four more years of work.”

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