- (Photo: Reuters/Joshua Roberts)
President Barack Obama, who was joined by journalists, politicians and Hollywood stars at the annual White House Correspondents Dinner on Saturday, poked fun at himself and his signature healthcare law. But he didn't spare media, Republicans nor Congress neither.
"I usually start these dinners with a few self-deprecating jokes, but after my stellar 2013, what could I talk about," the president told the crowd of a few thousands at the Washington Hilton Hotel Saturday night. "I admit it, last year was rough. Sheesh. At one point things got so bad the 47 percent called Mitt Romney to apologize."
Obama added, "We rolled out healthcare.gov. That could have gone better. In 2008 my slogan was 'Yes we can.' In 2013 my slogan was 'Control-alt-delete,'" The Associated Press quoted him as saying.
On the plus side, "they did turn the launch of healthcare.gov into one of the year's biggest movies," Obama added, as a screen flashed the poster for "Frozen."
"Does anybody know how to fix this?" Obama said after introducing a video which failed to play properly. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius offered help. "I got this. I see it all the time," he said.
After "Obamacare," the president turned to news media. He mentioned his recent travel to Asia, and said, "The lengths we have to go to get CNN coverage these days. I think they're still searching for their table." He added, "MSNBC is here. They're a little overwhelmed. They've never seen an audience this big before."
The president continued, "The Koch brothers bought a table here tonight, but as usual they used a shadowy right-wing organization as a front. Hello, Fox News! Let's face it, Fox. You'll miss me when I'm gone. It will be harder to convince the American people that Hillary was born in Kenya."
Obama then poked fun at Republicans. "Washington seems more dysfunctional than ever," he said. "Gridlock has gotten so bad in this town you have to wonder: What'd we do to piss off Chris Christie so bad?"
Actor and comedian Joel McHale hosted the event, which was attended by first lady Michelle Obama and numerous celebrities, including Duck Dynasty stars Willie and Korie Robertson, who were among the first to arrive. Willie was sporting a trademark USA bandanna.
The A&E reality show stars also attended the event last year. "We had the pleasure of meeting President Obama who said he was a fan of the show and watched it on Air Force One, so that was pretty surreal," U.S. News and World Report quoted Robertson as saying. "I'm not sure how you top that, but it's an honor to have been invited back again this year."
Producer Harvey Weinstein, Oscar winner Lupita Nyong'o, journalists Katie Couric and Barbara Walters, actresses Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Mindy Kaling, columnist Arianna Huffington, actor Jesse Tyler Ferguson and NBC journalist Savannah Guthrie were among the celebrities.
Also present were actresses Diane Lane, Jessica Simpson, Lizzy Caplan, Cynthia Nixon, Rose McGowan and Taylor Schilling; singers Brad Paisley and Katharine McPhee; actors Dax Shepard and John Leguizamo; journalist Wolf Blitzer and Australian musician and actor Rick Springfield.
The presence of celebrities was still below expectations. But organizers told The Washington Post the event was carefully re-oriented towards honoring journalists.
Like each year, the White House Correspondents' Association awarded scholarships to would-be journalists.
"We think it's a great moment," CBS News quoted Steven Thomma, the WHCA president, as saying. "They really like it, and we're happy to help them along the way to eventually take our jobs away from us."
This year, there was a special scholarship in honor of Harry S. McAlpin, Jr., the first African-American to question the president at a press conference in 1944 but who was refused to be admitted as a member.
"We're happy to have a lot of guests at our dinner, but our focus has always been, from the head table, on the work of the White House press corps and the relationship with the presidency," Thomma added. "I think we can do both."
The WHCA also honored a few journalists for their coverage of the presidency and national issues.