The dinner, hosted by the White House Correspondents’ Association, made its return after a two years pause because of the pandemic. It is intended as a celebration of the First Amendment — but it’s well known for poking fun at both the president and the press that cover him.
“I’m really excited to be here tonight with the only group of Americans with a lower approval rating than I have,” Biden quipped during the event.
It was also the first time that a president had attended the annual gala-style event in six years since former President Donald Trump had boycotted it during his administration.
“We had a horrible plague followed by two years of COVID,” Biden said in a joke aimed at Trump. “Just imagine if my predecessor came to this dinner this year, now that would really have been a real coup if that occurred.”
During his remarks, Biden noted that the event had taken strict COVID-19 measures as more than 2,500 guests gathered at the Washington Hilton.
“We’re here to show the country that we’re getting through this pandemic. Plus, everyone had to prove they were fully vaccinated and boosted,” Biden said.
“So if you’re at home watching this and you wonder how to do that, just contact your favorite Fox News reporter. They’re all here, vaccinated and boosted, all of them.”
Before introducing Trevor Noah, who served as the night’s comedian, Biden said that “The Daily Show? host would have an opportunity to roast the president of the United States.
“But unlike in Moscow, you won’t go to jail,” Biden told Noah.
Noah joked that he was honored to be speaking “at the nation’s most distinguished superspreader event” attended by celebrities including Kim Kardashian.
“You spent the last two years telling everyone the importance of wearing masks and avoiding large indoor gatherings. Then the second someone offers you a free dinner, you turn into Joe Rogan,” Noah told the crowd.
Noah also noted that Dr. Anthony Fauci had chosen not to attend the event because of COVID-19 dangers while joking that the crowd had chosen to attend anyway.
“Dr. Fauci dropped out. That should have been a pretty big sign. Fauci thought that it was too dangerous to come tonight,” Noah said. “Pete Davidson thinks it’s OK. And we all went with Pete.”
Joe Biden announced last week that he and first lady Jill Biden would attend the event, though they skipped the eating portion of the night to cut down on their exposure to COVID-19.
The dinner has been held almost annually since its inception in 1921 — usually with the president in attendance, who serves as the subject of the night’s friendly jokes. Biden will be the first sitting president at the event since Barack Obama‘s final dinner in 2016.