White House Correspondents' Dinner 2013: Obama Takes On Critics


The White House Correspondents' Association (WHCA) is an organization of journalists who cover the White House and the President of the United States. Last night President Obama and late night talk show host Conan O’Brien headlined their showcase event, the 99th Annual White House Correspondents' Dinner. The dinner is kind of like the Oscars for White House correspondents and journalists.

The highlight of the evening was Obama’s speech. It was a mixture of self-deprecating humor and some well-placed bards at his oppositions. Rather than enter to the traditional music of “Hail to the Chief,” Obama had them play DJ Khaled’s “All I Do Is Win,” to which he remarked “How do you like my new entrance music? Rush Limbaugh warned you about this; second term baby.”

Regarding the recent brouhaha over rap entrepreneur Jay-Z’s trip to Cuba he said, “I’ve got 99 problems and now Jay-Z is one,” an ode to one of Jay-Z’s hit songs. Obama took a shot at the GOP’s new minority outreach program by saying, “Call me self-centered, but I can think of one minority they could start with.”

And he made fun of Republican obstructionism when he said, “I had dinner with a number of the Republican senators. And I’ll admit it wasn’t easy. I proposed a toast — it died in committee.”

Obama took a shot at campaign financing saying, “Sheldon Adelson spent $100 million of his own money last year on negative ads. You’ve got to really dislike me to spend that kind of money. I mean, that’s Oprah money.” Obama took aim at the most persistent misrepresentations of him in the media when he said “I’m not the strapping young Muslim socialist that I used to be” and “some have suggested that we put [the Obama library] in my birthplace, but I’d rather keep it in the United States.”

The intended purpose of the dinner is to acknowledge award-winners, present scholarships, and give the press and the president an evening of friendly appreciation. However in recent years the event has taken on a Hollywood feel as more and more A-list entertainers and power brokers clamor for invitations to the event. The event, with its pre-dinner receptions and post — dinner parties is very much like what you would see for major entertainment awards shows e.g. Oscars, Tonys, Emmys, or Grammys.

Sarah Palin, no stranger to these types of events, took umbrage and wrote, “While America is buried in taxes and a fight for our rights, the permanent political class in DC dresses up and has a prom to make fun of themselves.” In a tweet she opined, that the attendees were “assclowns [throwing] themselves a #nerdprom.”

Acknowledging that the dinner had become too consumed by its celebrity status, Ed Henry, the outgoing president of the WHCA and Fox News Chief White House Correspondent reminded the audience that “we should be serving the public and the next generation of journalists.”

In keeping with the stated mission to promote journalism education the organization handed out a number of scholarship awards as well as recognizing outstanding achievement in the field. The Associated Press’ Julie Pace, the New Yorker’s Ryan Lizza, ABC’s Terry Morgan, and the Center for Public Integrity’s Jim Morris, Chris Hamby, and Ronnie Greene each took home the awards for outstanding news coverage.