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President Joe Biden proved likely as funny and prescient in his White House Correspondents’ Dinner remarks as hired comedian and Daily Show correspondent Roy Wood Jr.
But the commander in chief struck a rather serious and forceful tone during his 22-minute speech when he declared how vital the Black Press remains after 196 years of speaking truth to power.
After hilariously railing on everyone from Fox News, Tucker Carlson, Donald Trump and Republican Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, the president made fun of himself in a tour de force of hilariously self-deprecating jokes.
But, it was his proclamation calling the Black Press heroes that punctuated a 22-plus minute speech that proved one for the ages.
“During Black History Month this year, I hosted the screening of the movie ‘Till,’” the president stated, after such quips like “MSNBC is owned by NBC Universal and Fox News is owned by Dominion Voting Systems.”
“The story of Emmett Till and his mother is a story of a family’s promise and loss and a nation’s reckoning with hate, violence, and the abuse of power,” Biden recounted as he started his championing of the Black Press.
“It’s a story that was seared into our memory and our conscience — the nation’s conscience — when Mrs. Till insisted that an open casket for her murdered and maimed 14-year-old son be the means by which he was transported. She said, ‘Let the people see what I’ve seen.’”
The president continued:
“The reason the world saw what she saw was because of another hero in this story: the Black Press. That’s a fact. Jet magazine, the Chicago Defender, and other Black radio and newspapers were unflinching and brave in making sure America saw what she saw. And I mean it.”
He quoted Ida B. Wells, who exclaimed that “The way to right wrongs is to turn the light of truth upon the wrongs.”
“That’s the sacred view, in my view,” Biden asserted. “That’s the sacred charge of a free press. And I mean that.”
Earlier the White House Correspondents’ Association honored fallen PBS star journalist Gwen Ifill, and Biden took notice.
“That’s what someone, we still miss so much, who you honored posthumously, stood for– Gwen Ifill,” he said.
“She moderated my first debate for vice president and was a trusted voice for millions of Americans. Gwen understood that the louder the noise, the more it’s on all of us to cut through the noise to the truth. The truth matters.”
Before giving way to Wood, the president reminisced about the 2022 dinner.
“As I said last year at this dinner, a poison is running through our democracy and parts of the extreme press,” Biden reasserted. “The truth buried by lies, and lies living on as truth. Lies told for profit and power. Lies of conspiracy and malice repeated over and over again, designed to generate a cycle of anger, hate, and even violence.”
He concluded: “I’ve made clear that we know in our bones – and you know it too – our democracy remains at risk. But I’ve also made it clear, as I’ve seen throughout my life, it’s within our power, each and every one of us, to preserve our democracy. We can. We must. We will.”
National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) President and CEO Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis Jr., who sat nearby as the president spoke, offered praise to Biden.
“The NNPA thanks President Joe Biden for highlighting the strategic importance and ongoing value of the Black Press of America,” Chavis stated. “Biden’s speech to the 2023 White House Correspondents’ Dinner in Washington, D.C., was another historic tribute to the Black Press as the NNPA reaffirms being the trusted voice of Black America.”
Following the president’s speech, Wood jumped in.
“Real quick, Mr. President, I think you left some of your classified documents up here,” Woods quipped. “I’ll put them in a safe place, he don’t know where to keep them.”
While that led to hearty chuckles, Wood went on to deliver belly-aching laughter when he zeroed in on Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, former Fox host Tucker Carlson, former CNN host Don Lemon and others.
“Ron, everybody knows how to do politics. This is America,” Wood said in addressing DeSantis. “We don’t pass laws. You make a promise to voters. And then you don’t do it. That’s what the great leaders in this room understand.”
“Ask any Republican [to] try to explain CRT, they sound like a Democrat trying to explain the charges against Trump.”
He continued: “You are trying to erase Black people and a lot of Black people wouldn’t mind some of that erasure as long as that Black person is Clarence Thomas.”
And while Trump, and so many others proved targets, Wood didn’t spare Biden. “When the retirement age went up two years to 64 [in France] they rioted because they didn’t want to work till 64,” Wood said.
“Meanwhile in America, we have an 80-year-old man begging us for four more years of work.”