WASHINGTON -- President Obama and Conan O’Brien led the 99th White House Correspondents’ Assn. dinner Saturday at the Washington Hilton, hitting some familiar punch lines before acknowledging the hardships that have struck many in recent weeks.
Obama, now no stranger to the annual Washington event, delivered an irreverent series of jokes, taking to the podium with DJ Khaled’s song “All I Do is Win” blaring in the background.
“Rush Limbaugh warned you about this -- second term baby, we’re changing things around here a little bit,” Obama said.
In standard correspondents’ dinner fashion, Obama delivered a few self-deprecating remarks.
“I get it -- these days I look in the mirror and I have to admit, I’m not the strapping young Muslim socialist I used to be,” he joked.
PHOTOS: The White House Correspondents' dinner
Obama catered to his audience in commenting on the constantly-changing media landscape.
“I remember when Buzzfeed was just something I did in college at 2 a.m.,” he said.
And Obama offered some advice to Republicans focusing on outreach to minority voters following their presidential defeat last year.
“Call me self-centered, but I can think of one minority they can start with,” he said, motioning toward himself. “Think of me as a trial run, see how it goes.”
The president brought out a video clip of Steven Spielberg introducing his (fake) new film “Obama,” featuring Obama spoofing Daniel Day-Lewis.
But following that clip, Obama shifted the event’s attention to recent national tragedies.
“These have been some very hard days for too many of our citizens. Even as we gather here tonight, our thoughts are not far from the people of Boston, the people of West, Texas, and in the Midwest there are some people coping with some terrible floods,” Obama said.
Obama praised law enforcement officials, first responders and National Guard troops who have worked tirelessly to help the victims.
PHOTOS: Red carpet at the correspondents' dinner
“I’m reminded that all these folks don’t do it to be honored, they don’t do it to be celebrated. They do it because they love their family, they love their neighborhoods, they love their country,” Obama said, imploring those in the audience to do the same.
“If we’re only focused on profits, on ratings and on polls, we are contributing to sense of cynicism that’s out there right now,” he added.
O’Brien, receiving a noticeably more steely reaction than the president, harped on familiar subjects during his second stint as the evening’s entertainment.
“As a late-night comedian, I was kind of pulling for the rich guy whose horse danced in the Olympics,” he said after congratulating Obama on his second presidential victory.
Riffing on Obama’s up-and-down relationship with House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio), O’Brien compared the two to “a blind date between Anderson Cooper and Rachel Maddow.
And, of course, there was a low blow for those still in the newspaper business.
“The print media are here for two very good reasons: food and shelter,” O’Brien said.
But O’Brien, who grew up in Boston and still has family in the city, closed his remarks by thanking Obama for his work following the marathon bombing.
“It’s really pretty simple -- if you’re going to pick on a city, don’t pick one where 9 out of 10 people are related to a cop,” he quipped.
The event was kicked off by a star-studded (by D.C. standards) clip led by “House of Cards” star Kevin Spacey in his role as Rep. Frank Underwood.
The short film featured cameos from Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), Politico’s Mike Allen, New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and others dealing with the challenge of obtaining a ticket to the dinner. But Spacey undercut the inside jokes at the clip’s conclusion, addressing the audience directly.
“It must be so hard to write jokes about a town that already is one,” Spacey said, noting that plenty of individuals from both sides of the aisle had no problem working together to make the short film. “That’s what real bipartisanship looks like.”
Fox News’ Ed Henry, president of the White House Correspondents' Assn., conceded the concerns voiced by many over the past year that the dinner had become too focused on inviting celebrities, on the glitz and the glamour.
“We should be serving the public and the next generation of journalists,” he said, before ushering in the latest group of young journalists who have earned the correspondents’ association’s series of scholarships, which last year totaled $132,200.
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