CNN will air special coverage of the White House Correspondents’ dinner from 7-11 p.m. ET anchored by John Berman and Brianna Keilar in Washington, DC.
Saturday night’s dinner, which will take place inside the Washington Hilton and host more than 2,500 guests, returns in full force after a two-year hiatus due to the pandemic. The event’s program will be headlined by “Daily Show” host Trevor Noah and will feature Biden delivering comedic remarks. The White House Correspondents Association, which hosts the annual black tie event, will honor several journalists for their contributions.
Biden’s appearance will be the first time a US president has attended the dinner in six years.
Inside the gala, negative Covid-19 tests will be required for entry and masks will be voluntary — just as they are throughout most of Washington.
But there have been growing concerns that Saturday night’s event could lead to Covid cases among partygoers, after dozens of attendees — including some of Biden’s Cabinet officials — who attended a different Washington party, the Gridiron Dinner, tested positive weeks ago.
Cases of Covid in Washington are now steady after rising following the decline of the Omicron variant’s wave, but Dr. Anthony Fauci, the President’s chief medical adviser, has decided to bow out of Saturday’s dinner after a personal risk assessment.
“In general, the risk is low, but I made a personal assessment. I’m 81 years old, and if I get infected, I have a much higher risk,” Fauci said earlier this week.
Saturday’s event also comes after two top Biden officials recently tested positive for Covid-19.
But Biden’s decision to still attend the dinner, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said earlier this week, is “a risk assessment and a decision he made on a personal basis.” And Biden is intent on going, she said, to express his support for a free press. First lady Jill Biden is also expected to still attend.
The White House says the President will be taking extra precautions to prevent catching Covid-19, including skipping the meal portion of the program. Biden will also “likely” wear a mask when he’s not delivering the speech, Psaki said on Friday. He’ll be at the dinner for roughly 90 minutes and sit on the dais, away from the crowded dining room, and won’t attend receptions before or afterward.
Biden last tested negative for Covid-19 on Thursday.
Adjusting the tone for Biden’s comedic set
The President has a rare chance for his comedic chops to shine Saturday night when he delivers remarks at the dinner, but the opportunity arguably comes at a tough moment for the country to have a laugh.
The speech also takes place at a time when the American political environment remains extremely polarized, arguably more divided than in 2016 — the last time a president delivered a speech at the dinner.
Jokes about himself, the press and the GOP are anticipated, but Biden also intends to use the appearance to loudly affirm his belief in a free press after his predecessor — who skipped the yearly dinner throughout his time in office — labeled reporters the “enemy of the people.”
The White House has sourced a long list jokes from across his staff to craft Saturday night’s set. Officials said the chief of staff Ron Klain, members of the communications team and others inside the White House sent jokes to Biden’s speechwriters for consideration. Rob Flaherty, the director of digital strategy, and Dan Cluchey, a senior speechwriter — both said to be among Biden’s funniest staffers — have been sending material.
Biden is expected to do a few practice runs of his speech to get a feel for the delivery and timing, a person familiar with the matter said.
CNN’s Kevin Liptak and Ariel Edwards-Levy contributed to this report.