US President Joe Biden cracked jokes about former President Donald Trump at the Washington press corps’ traditional gala dinner and urged the media to play their role in democracy. “I’m certainly not asking you to pick a side,” he told the audience at the Correspondents’ Dinner in Washington. “I ask you to recognize the gravity of the moment.” Everyone must contribute “to ensuring that American democracy endures.”

The 81-year-old Biden had previously begun his speech self-deprecatingly in view of his age, but also used it to take a number of swipes at his likely Republican opponent in the presidential election campaign. Among other things, he joked about the criminal trial against 77-year-old Trump in connection with hush money payments to porn actress Stormy Daniels. “Donald has had a few tough days lately. You could say stormy weather,” Biden said, alluding to Daniels’ first name. (“Stormy” is also the English word for “stormy”.)

The Republican is currently in court in New York almost every day. The prosecution accuses him of trying to influence the outcome of the 2016 US presidential election by paying $130,000 to Daniels. Although the transaction itself was not illegal, Trump is said to have falsified business documents in order to return the money to his lawyer in order to conceal its actual purpose. “What the hell,” Biden commented.

Comedian Jost tells us: Sleepy Joe is still awake

The Journalists Association of Correspondents Accredited to the White House has been organizing the gala evening for more than 100 years. The president is usually a star guest – only Trump never attended during his term in office. In addition to journalists and high-ranking members of the government, some Hollywood big names are always present. This year, actress Scarlett Johansson, among others, was in the audience. She is married to comedian Colin Jost, who took over the traditional entertainment part of the evening.

He distributed it towards Trump, but also in all other directions. “I would like to point out that Sleepy Joe is still awake after 10 p.m.,” the comedian joked about Biden – Trump gave the Democrat the nickname (in German: “sleepy Joe”) in the 2020 presidential election campaign and has used it again and again since then. Addressing the press, Jost said: “Like many people here, I pretend to be making news.” Jost hosts a satirical news program on the US comedy show “Saturday Night Live”.

Pro-Palestinian demonstrators criticize the media

As with almost every appearance by President Biden, several hundred pro-Palestinian demonstrators also gathered at the venue. They loudly confronted the arriving journalists with criticism of their Middle East reporting. Accompanied by drums, they chanted: “Shame on you” and “Do your job.” Some protesters wore blue helmets and T-shirts with the words “Press” on them, reminiscent of the protective vests worn by war reporters. One demonstrator explained that this was intended to draw attention to the situation of Palestinian journalists.

According to information from the non-governmental organization Reporters Without Borders in early March, more than 100 journalists have been killed in the Gaza Strip since the war began on October 7. The Foreign Press Association (FPA) also criticizes the fact that Israel only allows independent reporters very limited access to the war zone. The responsible authorities justify this with security and logistical problems.

While pro-Palestinian demonstrations have recently expanded and sometimes intensified, particularly at US universities, police officers on site believe it was a relatively small protest. According to a US reporter present, there was a similar scale climate protest outside the venue’s doors last year.