White House Correspondents' Dinner returns with president in attendance

The show goes on despite COVID-19 concerns.

April 30, 2022, 10:58 PM

The White House Correspondents' Dinner made its grand return Saturday night, two years after the pandemic shut it down and six years since the last time a commander-in-chief attended the event.

President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden attended the charity event at the Washington Hilton, the first sitting president to do so since 2016. Former President Donald Trump vocally snubbed his three invitations during his time in office.

Biden referenced his predecessor during his speech and said, "We had a horrible plague followed by two years of COVID."

He also joked about his current standing in the polls and described the journalists in the room as the "only group of Americans who have a lower approval rating than I have."

The president honed in on the theme of the evening and honored the assembled reporters.

"You, the free press, matter more than you ever have in the past century," Biden said.

The event is held by the White House Correspondents' Association, which represents White House reporters, and has been a tradition since 1921. The dinner seeks to raise awareness of the First Amendment, raises money for journalism programs and includes jokes at the expense of the president, the Washington, D.C., community and other news topics.

The president typically has a speech where he provides his own jokes.

"The Daily Show" host Trevor Noah emceed this year's dinner. Other non-politician celebrities were in attendance as well, including Drew Barrymore, Kim Kardashian and Pete Davidson.

PHOTO: Trevor Noah arrives at the 64th Annual Grammy Awards at the MGM Grand Garden Arena, April 3, 2022, in Las Vegas.
Trevor Noah arrives at the 64th Annual Grammy Awards at the MGM Grand Garden Arena, April 3, 2022, in Las Vegas.
Invision/AP, FILE

Noah mocked the White House Correspondents’ Dinner as a “superspreader event.”

He also noted that Washington’s elite had gathered only weeks after there was a COVID-19 outbreak.

“For real, what are we doing here? Did none of you learn anything from the Gridiron dinner? Nothing?” he said.

“You guys spent the last two years telling everyone the importance of wearing masks and avoiding large in-door gatherings, then the second someone offers you a free dinner, you all turn into Joe Rogan.”

The pandemic forced the WHCA to cancel the dinner in 2020 and 2021.

Even though COVID-19 cases are on the rise, and several White House members have recently contracted the virus, including Vice President Kamala Harris, the show went on.

Organizers said all attendees must be vaccinated and are required to show proof of a negative test.

Concerns about the dinner's safety grew following a COVID-19 outbreak that occurred after the Gridiron Club Dinner on April 2. Dozens of elected officials, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, contracted the virus.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters Friday that Biden is taking extra precautions.

"He's not attending the dinner portion. He's coming for the program. So...he will likely wear a mask when he's not speaking," she said. "And then he's of course sitting on the dais up in the front of the interaction and is not attending any of the receptions."

ABC News' Libby Cathey contributed to this report.

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