[UPDATED 9:32 PM with video of President Obama’s full remarks.]
“I’m sorry I was a little late tonight, I was running on CPT,” said President Barack Obama tonight kicking off his remarks at his final White House Correspondents’ Dinner. “Which stands for ‘Jokes white people should not make,’” he added in what was the first clear blast of the night in reference to the ill considered and racially themed routine Hillary Clinton and NYC Mayor Bill De Blasio did onstage in the Big Apple a few weeks back to much criticism. With often lackluster response, Obama’s remarks on Saturday night slammed Clinton and also Donald Trump, Ted Cruz and CNN with shout-outs to Game Of Thrones and Dame Helen Mirren.
“You know I have to talk about Trump,” Obama teased near the end of his speech in the jokes everyone was waiting for tonight. “Is this dinner too tacky for the Donald?’ he jabbed remarking on all the cameras and celebs in attendance and the absence of past dinner guest Trump.
After hitting out Trump running “waterfront properties into the ground,” Obama said he would back off on the GOP candidate but then went right after him again. “I think we can all agree that from the start he’s gotten the appropriate amount of coverage fitting the seriousness of his candidacy,” the President added with a smile. “I hope you all are proud of yourselves,” he zinged the assembled media. “The guy wanted to give his hotel business a boost and now we’re praying that Cleveland makes it through July,” Obama added with a reference to potential violence at the GOP convention in the Ohio city if Trump is denied the nomination. Surprisingly Trump did not rise to the bait online by responding to the jokes at his expense.
In an homage to Kobe Bryant’s remarks at the end of his last game earlier this month, the President literally dropped the mic and said “Obama Out” after praising the value of a free press in public life.
— The White House (@WhiteHouse) May 1, 2016
Before that rather staged exit, Obama also made fun of Clinton in contrast to rival Bernie Sanders’ “Feel The Bern” slogan with what he said should be hers – “Trudge Up The Hill.”
“You got to admit though,” the incumbent added after listing a series of Clinton’s attributes, “Hillary trying to appeal to young voters is a little bit like your relative who just signed up for Facebook.” He followed that with the line “did you get my poke” and a rather poor impersonation of “Aunt Hillary” after giving Sanders, who stood up to big applause, some kinder words – not that Obama obviously thinks the Vermont Senator is following him to the White House.
“Next year at this time, someone else will be standing here in this very spot but its anyone’s guess who she will be,” the President quipped earlier with an obvious shout to his former Secretary of State and Democratic frontrunner Clinton. Still Hillary time wasn’t over yet as her Wall Street speaking fees got a dig from Obama too. “If this material works well, I’m going to use it at Goldman Sachs next year, earn me some serious Tubmans,” he cracked about the soon-ish new face of the $20 bill.
But it was Donald Trump that Obama really had in his sights tonight.
“The last time I was this high I was trying to decide on my major, said Obama of his current polls numbers. To explain the latest rise in his popularity, the President then showed very unflattering photos of GOP contenders Ted Cruz and Donald Trump. Obama also slammed Trump for supposedly inflating his income in relation to guest and fellow billionaire Michael Bloomberg, “who is actually worth the amount of money he says he is.”
After slamming the “loose” GOP race and the hope of many that House Speaker Paul Ryan was running and not “chicken or fish” Cruz and Trump, Obama slagged Ohio Gov. John Kasich as “someone who isn’t polling high enough to warrant his own joke tonight.” A duel image of Kasich eating was then shown on the monitor.
Hollywood got a lot of airtime in the President’s remarks tonight. Obama gave HBO’s Game of Thrones an unspecified reference when mentioning the bloody Red Wedding episode in regards to maybe how he should deal with Republicans who want to block his SCOTUS nominee. Naming Spotlight stars in the house, Obama called the Oscar winning film about “chasing down the truth and holding the powerful accountable” the “best fantasy film since Star Wars” – before admitting that was maybe a cheap shot against journalists in general. “I’m not sure what she does but I hear my Twitter mentions are about to go through the roof,” said Obama of Kendal Jenner before offering a genuine appreciation of Helen Mirren, who stood to even bigger applause than Sanders.
As he has in past years, POTUS took potshots at the cable news networks. “Jake Tapper left journalism to join CNN,” Obama said to big laughs and some jeers from the well-heeled media crowd, which included Tapper himself. However, Obama did praise the Pulitzer Prize winning journalism of the Boston Globe’s Spotlight team – who were in the house with the cast and creatives of the Oscar winning film based on their work. Oddly, Obama laid off Fox News, which has long been an object of his WHCD scorn in past years.
The President’s remarks Saturday night before First Lady Michelle Obama, the media and Hollywood elite will be followed by Larry Wilmore. The Nightly Show host has said that he will be bringing up issues of race, the President’s legacy and the 2016 election in his routine. As usual, The New York Times doesn’t have tables at the WHCD but Fox News Channel, CNN, NBC News, ABC News, CBS News, the Boston Globe (who actually invited the director and cast members from Oscar winner Spotlight and the real-life journalists who inspired the pic), the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, Vanity Fair, Bloomberg are all there with their own stars and headline attracting guests. From what I hear from sources, FNC superstar and Trump on and off-nemesis Megyn Kelly was by far one of the biggest attractions of this year’s WHCD.
Though some said the Tinseltown glamour was looking like it could dim this year, the 102nd gathering of the White House Correspondents Association was Hollywood A-lister strong for 2016. Long time Obama supporters Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith brought a big spotlight and then there was a trio of fictional POTUS’ there as well with Independence Day: Resurgence’s Sela Ward, Scandal’s Tony Goldwyn and Deep Impact’s Morgan Freeman. Beverly Hills powerhouses WME’s Ari Emanuel, whose brother Rahm was Obama’s first Chief of Staff and is the current Mayor of Chicago, and UTA’s Jay Sures, who is Wilmore’s agent and a pal of fellow attendee Vice President Joe Biden, are there tonight too. AMPAS President Cheryl Boone Isaacs and MPAA boss Chris Dodd are at the Washington Hilton as guests of FNC. The representation of real-life former Commander-in-Chief Lyndon Baines Johnson is there in the form of HBO’s All The Way’s Bryan Cranston as is a real-life White House contender in Sen. Sanders and his wife Jane.
Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton and GOP frontrunner Donald Trump were not among the 2,700 guests in the Washington Hilton ballroom. However, while the ex-Apprentice host has attended as recently as last year, his eldest sons Donald Jr. and Eric were there tonight representing the family. As for Team Hillary, the former First Lady’s right hand lady Huma Abedin is in the Hilton Ballroom.
Among the Tinseltown guests: Star Wars star Carrie Fisher and her dog, The Night Manager’s Tom Hiddleston, Quantico’s Priyanka Chopra, acting royalty Helen Mirren, Keanu’s Keegan-Michael Key (who helped POYUS bring the house down last year), ID 2’s Jeff Goldblum and Vivica Fox, black-ish’s Anthony Anderson, Tracee Ellis Ross and series creator Kenya Barris, Blindspot’s Jaime Alexander, Suicide Squad‘s Jared Leto looking relatively fashion tame, TGIT mastermind Shonda Rhimes, Kerry Washington and almost the entire cast of Scandal. Also in attendance: The West Wing alum Dule Hill, ex-Vampire Diaries star Nina Dobrev, the co-hosts of The View, Emma Watson, DJ Khaled, UnReal’s Constance Zimmer, Bill Nye the Science Guy, Blue Bloods‘ Bridget Moynahan, Keeping Up With the Kardashians’ Kendall Jenner, House of Cards’ Michael Kelly and Neve Campbell, Gabrielle Union, Daredevil star and big time Sanders supporter Rosario Dawson, Miles Teller, Aretha Franklin, Downton Abbey’s Michelle Dockery and more bringing the glam factor.
The fact is if the reigns of Bill Clinton and George W. Bush saw celebrity wattage rising, the Obama Era has seen it become the brightest thing about the once dusty WHCD after the POTUS himself. Even with that the WHCA gave out a round of scholarships and awards tonight. Receiving a standing ovation when Association prez Carol Lee introduced him, Washington Post journalist Jason Rezaian, who was imprisoned in Iran up until January this year, handed out the awards for White House coverage. The WSJ‘s Lee herself received the Aldo Beckman Memorial Award For Outstanding White House Coverage, which must have been a pretty stellar way to the near end of her term heading the WHCA. The pre-remarks portion of the event also featured an 8-minute greatest hits video of the Obama administration that also included teleprompter mishaps, verbal gaffs and an Eminem soundtrack.
With some literal bathroom humor thrown in, Obama in his remarks joked about Canadian PM Justin Trudeau as the new bright light of Western leaders, the “death panels” of his Health Care reforms, gridlock in DC, if he’s black enough and how he has aged in office – the latter being a pretty standard line in his WHCD remarks over the years. “It’s a tough transition,” he said about his final year in office. Similar to what Bill Clinton did in his final year, Obama then showed a video costarring Biden and former Speaker John Boehner about what Obama would do in DC after leaving the White House.
Watch Couch Commander here:
— The White House (@WhiteHouse) May 1, 2016