WASHINGTON -- President Obama didn’t pull any punches during this year’s White House correspondents dinner, poking fun at his past experience in canine cuisine, at the Republican Party and, most persistently, at his presidential rival Mitt Romney.
“What’s the difference between a hockey mom and a pit bull?” Obama asked the audience Saturday night, a reference to the recent brouhaha over his eating of dog meat as a child. “A pit bull is delicious.”
Continuing with the dog jokes, Obama showed a fake “super PAC” ad warning of the dangers his administration poses toward man’s best friend.
“America’s dogs can’t afford four more years of Obama. For them it’s 28 years,” the narrator cautioned.
But Obama saved his most pointed jokes toward the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, rattling off a series of one-liners.
“It’s nice to be here in the nice, vast Hilton ballroom,” Obama said. “Or as Mitt Romney would call it, a fixer-upper.”
“We both have degrees from Harvard,” Obama later added. “I have one, he has two. What a snob.”
The 98th annual White House Correspondents’ Assn. dinner, held at the Washington Hilton, has traditionally been a celebration of those covering the president. Attendance over the years has expanded beyond the president, the first lady, journalists and invited members of government to include high-profile celebrities such as Lindsay Lohan and Kim Kardashian, both of whom attended this year’s event.
The focal point of the proceedings remains the president’s humorous, often self-deprecating, speech.
Though most of Obama's comments were aimed at those on the opposite end of the aisle, including one particularly pointed remark on the reluctance of congressional Republicans to pass legislation, he did manage to poke fun at himself.
“My mother was born in Kansas, my father in Kenya, and I was born, of course, in Hawaii,” Obama said, reintroducing himself, with a forced wink at the joke’s punch line.
“I have not seen ‘The Hunger Games.’ Not enough class warfare,” he later said.
Obama’s address last year came a day before the announcement that Osama bin Laden had been killed in Pakistan. That speech was noted for Obama’s broad remarks about the lingering questions over his U.S. citizenship and jokes about the possibility of Donald Trump running for president.
This year, Obama alluded to last year’s speech, saying that he “finally delivered justice to one of the world’s most notorious individuals,” at which point an unflattering picture of Trump was displayed.
Late-night comedian Jimmy Kimmel hosted the proceedings, filling a role that has been held by the likes of "Saturday Night Live's" Seth Meyers in 2011, Jay Leno, Stephen Colbert, Al Franken and others.
Kimmel, who followed the president, began with a continuation of his show’s segment “This Week in Unnecessary Censorship,” which was met with a muted response given the crude nature of the various bleeps placed over various political sound bites.
He took the standard monologue approach to his routine, hitting upon a series of recent scandals, events and individuals in attendance, sometimes hitting a bit close to home.
His answer of “nothing, any more” to “what’s black and white and read all over?” fell flat with journalists in attendance, who had applauded moments earlier at a series of jokes about the weight of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.
Listing the variety of people attending the dinner -- members of the media, politicians, celebrities and others -- Kimmel concluded: “Everything that is wrong with America is here in this room.”
But the gathering didn’t consist entirely of jokes. ABC News’ Jake Tapper and Politico’s Glenn Thrush, Carrie Budoff Brown, Manu Raju and John Bresnahan won the Merriman Smith Award for excellence in presidential coverage under pressure. Tapper won for first reporting the news that Standard & Poor's would be downgrading the nation's AAA credit rating, while the Politico team won for its coverage of the debt-ceiling deal between Obama and congressional Republicans.
The Washington Post’s Scott Wilson won the Aldo Beckman Award for his “deeply reported and nuanced stories, his evocative writing and his clear presentation of complex issues.” Writers Matt Apuzzo, Adam Goldman, Eileen Sullivan and Chris Hawley of the Associated Press won the Edgar A. Poe Award for their coverage of the NYPD’s investigation of Muslims and various ethnic groups.
Other journalists were given honorable mentions for their work over the last year.
The White House Correspondents’ Assn. also gives out a series of scholarships to further journalism education, funded by money raised during the annual dinner events. This year’s recipients, given various scholarships from a pool of $132,000, are listed here.