Biden, Michigan Governor Whitmer, Utah’s Cox to joke at Washington’s Gridiron dinner

By Thomson Reuters Mar 16, 2024 | 5:03 PM

By Stephanie Kelly

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Joe Biden, Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer and Utah Governor Spencer Cox are expected to skewer American politics and poke fun at themselves in speeches at the Gridiron Club dinner Saturday, a Washington tradition that began in the 1880s.

Biden’s appearance at the dinner, in which politicians and journalists trade humorous barbs in a white-tie formal affair, will be the first time a president has attended in person since former President Donald Trump in 2018. Trump then made jokes about his wife leaving him and Vice President Mike Pence being humorless.

Biden recently clinched the Democratic Party’s nomination for November’s presidential election, and is trying to court voters, boost his low approval ratings and allay concerns that at 81 he is too old to run again.

The more than 650 expected guests include the Taoiseach of Ireland Leo Varadkar, Prime Minister of Estonia Kaja Kallas, Amazon founder and Washington Post owner Jeff Bezos, and TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew, whose U.S. business could be banned by Biden.

“Your presence reminds us of the stakes – for the Baltic nations, for Europe and the world at large – of the war in Ukraine,” Gridiron President Dan Balz, chief correspondent of The Washington Post, will say to Kallas, according to prepared remarks.

The club’s 65 members, all representatives from news organizations, will perform satirical songs and skits that poke fun at Biden and Trump’s ages and the luxury trips Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas took from a Republican donor.

Presidents occasionally take the stage with the costumed performers to sing a song, but there was no word that Biden planned to do so.

At last year’s dinner, Mike Pence, who served as Vice President under Trump, offered a forceful rebuke of his one-time boss, saying history will hold Trump accountable for his role in the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol.

Unlike its sister event, the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner in April, the Gridiron dinner is not televised and tries to retain its yesteryear vibe with men in white tie and tails and women in long dresses.

No photos are allowed during the dinner and participants are asked not to post on social media until after it has concluded.

(Reporting by Stephanie Kelly and Steve Holland. Editing by Heather Timmons and David Gregorio)