Biden to speak at White House Correspondents’ Dinner, protests planned

By Thomson Reuters Apr 27, 2024 | 3:14 PM

By Stephanie Kelly

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Joe Biden will speak on Saturday night at the annual White House Correspondents’ Association dinner, with protests against his staunch support for Israel’s war against Hamas expected to follow him to the black-tie event.

At the century-old event, often referred to as Washington’s “nerd prom,” hundreds of journalists, politicians and celebrities will rub elbows in a massive hotel banquet hall at the Washington Hilton Hotel. It often features friendly jabs from the president in a closing speech that takes aim at reporters and other guests in the audience. This year it will be hosted by Saturday Night Live’s Colin Jost.

Grassroots movement CODEPINK is expected to march to the prestigious venue from a nearby park, as “the United States media perpetuates anti-Palestinian narratives and ignores Israeli war crimes,” it wrote on its website.

A growing movement against the war in Gaza has dogged Biden this year including at a $250-per-ticket March fundraiser at New York’s Radio City Music Hall, where protesters disrupted the event for the U.S. handling of the crisis in Gaza. Recently, that movement has expanded to college campuses in the U.S., signifying a growing revolt inside the Democratic base that Biden needs to defeat Republican frontrunner and former President Donald Trump.

Kelly O’Donnell, president of the White House Correspondents’ Association, declined to comment on security measures for the dinner.

“The safety and security of our protectees is the U.S. Secret Service’s top priority,” said U.S. Secret Service spokesperson Alexi Worley, who declined to comment further.

Israel’s six-month old war against Hamas in Gaza, in response to the Oct. 7 attack by the militant group in southern Israel, has killed more than 34,000 people, Palestinian health authorities say, and caused a humanitarian disaster for the enclave’s more than 2 million inhabitants.

The Hamas attack killed 1,200 people in Israel, and led to 253 taken hostage, according to Israeli tallies.

The White House Correspondents Association was founded in 1914 and has held a dinner nearly every year since 1921 to celebrate the reporters who cover the presidency and raise money for scholarships.

(Reporting by Stephanie Kelly; additional reporting by Trevor Hunnicutt. Editing by Heather Timmons and Diane Craft)