Biden to advocate the release of detained journalists at the White House correspondents’ dinner

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden plans to use his remarks Saturday at the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner to address press freedoms and the detainment of American journalists.

A senior White House official said the president is looking forward to attending the dinner. “You can expect him to speak to the importance of the First Amendment, how critical press freedom is around the world, and his unwavering commitment to bring home wrongfully detained journalists and other Americans,” the official said.

This year’s comedian performer is Roy Wood Jr., a correspondent for “The Daily Show.”

Last year was the first time a sitting president attended the program since Barack Obama in 2016.

At the 2022 dinner, Biden spoke for just under 15 minutes, cracking jokes at himself and the media.

“I’m really excited to be here tonight with the only group of Americans with a lower approval rating than I have,” Biden quipped as he started his remarks.

Biden praised the importance of a free press in his remarks last year. This year’s dinner comes in the shadow of the detainment of Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich.

“At home, a poison is running through our democracy of all — all of this taking place with disinformation massively on the rise, where the truth is buried by lies and the lies live on as truth,” Biden said in his 2022 remarks. “What’s clear — and I mean this from the bottom of my heart — that you, the free press, matter more than you ever did in the last century.”

Gershkovich was arrested in Russia on March 29 and accused of espionage, which he, his employer and the Biden administration have denied. The State Department on April 10 designated Gershkovich as wrongfully detained.

The history of the famed dinner stretches back to 1914, when the White House Correspondents’ Association was established. The association held its first dinner in 1921, sparking the annual tradition. But it wasn’t until 1924 that the president, then Calvin Coolidge, started attending.

Comedians typically host the event and crack jokes about the administration and the media.

One of the more notable White House correspondents’ dinners was during Biden’s vice presidency in 2011, when Obama and comedian Seth Meyers blasted Donald Trump, who was in the audience.

“Donald Trump has been saying that he will run for president as a Republican,” Meyers said as Trump looked on, appearing unamused. “Which is surprising, since I just assumed he was running as a joke.”

Trump skipped all of the White House correspondents’ dinners during his term.

After comedian Michelle Wolf delivered a blistering 2018 dinner routine taking aim at the Trump administration, Trump tweeted that “the White House Correspondents’ Dinner is DEAD as we know it.”

The next year, the organization opted to have historian Ron Chernow deliver a speech instead of a comedian.