Washington, 30 April 2023 (TDI): The annual White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner, known for its lighthearted roasting of Washington insiders, took on a more serious tone this year as President Joe Biden addressed the threat to press freedom posed by authoritarian regimes.
During his speech at the Washington Hilton, Biden emphasized the importance of a free press, calling it “a pillar, maybe the pillar, of a free society, not the enemy.”
Biden and first lady Jill Biden also met privately with the parents of imprisoned Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich, who has been held in Russia since March on spying charges. The president also acknowledged the presence of Debra Tice, the mother of journalist Austin Tice, who has been missing since 2012.
“Journalism is not a crime,” Biden declared. “Evan and Austin should be released immediately along with every other American detained abroad. I promise you, I am working like hell to get them home.”
Joe Biden also spoke with WNBA star Brittney Griner, who was detained in Russia for nearly ten months last year before being released in a prisoner swap. Celebrities in attendance included actor Liev Schreiber, singer John Legend, and model and television personality Chrissy Teigen.
In addition to addressing press freedom, Biden took aim at his political opponents, including House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and Fox Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch. Comedian Roy Wood Jr., the featured entertainer of the evening, also joked about Biden’s age as the president prepares for a potential re-election bid.
The White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner returned after being canceled in 2020 and 2021 due to the pandemic. Biden was the first president in six years to attend the event, which he had previously attended as vice president under Barack Obama.