Opening his remarks to a crowd in the backyard of his Kalorama neighborhood home, Ireland’s Ambassador Daniel Mulhall quipped, “I’m kind of wondering: Is it legal to have so many people at a party?”
He was speaking at the Bytes & Bylines event on Thursday evening, in what could be described as a kickoff to a weekend of receptions, parties, brunches and special dinners surrounding Saturday’s White House Correspondents’ Association dinner. Covid cancellations in the past two years have put much of D.C.’s social swirl on hold or in a rather tentative state. And despite a contagious variant that spread through an event earlier this month, the Gridiron Club dinner, along with Vice President Kamala Harris’ positive test earlier this week, the show is going on, with most events requiring proof of a negative test and vaccination.
A few miles away, at the White House, President Joe Biden and director Barry Levinson spoke to a reception in the Jacqueline Kennedy Garden for HBO’s The Survivor, the first public screening that Biden and First Lady Jill Biden have held since taking office. The movie tells the story of Harry Haft, who was forced to box fellow prisoners in Auschwitz, and was selected to mark Holocaust Remembrance Day. Among those attending were Ben Foster, who plays Haft, along with Haft’s son, Alan, as well as producers Mattie Leshem and Jason Sosnoff, HBO chief content officer Casey Bloys, Discovery’s corporate affairs officer David Leavy, as well as Francesca Orsi, Tara Grace and Tammy Haddad. Also there: Stuart Eizenstat, Ann Lewis, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Daniel Lubetzky, Rep. Brad Schneider (D-IL), Angela Tarantino, Mark Benioff and Susan Wojcicki.
Jordan Klepper, headlining the Freedom Forum’s Free Expression Awards at the Anthem, had a few jokes at the expense of cable news — and the recently shuttered CNN streaming service. “Sadly, the Newseum only lasted 11 years, or for
perspective, 264 CNN+ers.” He also told the crowd, “Must be nice to be in a room with the same sized audience as MSNBC daytime.” Klepper also turned his attention to the right’s move to ban certain books from school libraries. “They are banning the wrong books. My small child holds me hostage every night asking for the same books over and over, and frankly they are a danger…I’m talking about The Very Hungry Caterpillar. Ban that book! It just rewards gluttony.”
“Also — surprise — that book is about transitioning. He turns into a butterfly. I don’t know how Ron DeSantis missed it.”
Jonathan Capehart of The Washington Post and MSNBC emceed the event, with honorees including Nikole Hannah Jones, Alberto Ibarguen, Eric Treene and the founders of Stop AAPI Hate, Cynthia Choi, Russell Jeung and Manjusha Kulkami. Attendees including Freedom Forum CEO Jan Neuharth, Dean Baquet, Joe Kahn, Judy Woodruff and Al Hunt.
At the Bytes & Bylines event, Mulhall also spoke of the crisis in Ukraine and the impact on the rest of Europe, as well as the work of journalists there covering the war. In the crowd was CNN’s senior national security correspondent Alexander Marquardt, who was in Ukraine for five weeks, along with other media figures such as CNN senior White House correspondent Kaitlan Collins, NBC News senior White House correspondent Kelly O’Donnell, CNN Washington bureau chief and senior VP Sam Feist, State Department spokesman Ned Price, CNN’s David Chalian, The Washington Post’s Philip Rucker and Chasten Buttigieg. GLAAD’s Sarah Kate Ellis also spoke of a flood of anti-LGBTQ bills being passed and proposed in a number of states. She was a co-host along with Allen Gannett, De’Ara Balenger, Eric Kuhn, Susanna Quinn and Stellene Volandes.
Biden is scheduled to speak at the dinner on Saturday night, but plans are for him to limit his appearance to his remarks, rather than stay for the entirety of the event itself.
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