President Joe Biden Challenges Newsers to ‘Rise Up to the Seriousness of the Moment’ at White House Correspondents’ Dinner

By Ethan Alter 

The White House Correspondents’ Dinner is typically that rare night in Washington, D.C. where journalists and elected officials alike allow themselves to take a break from the serious business of politics and get a little silly. And President Joe Biden obliged the tone and tenor of the event with a lively speech that made room for plenty of zingers, many at the expense of his rival in the current election cycle, former President Donald Trump.

But Biden also had some weighty thoughts to share with the Newsers in the room, along with an earnest request for how they should cover the already-contentious presidential race.

“I’m asking you to rise up to the seriousness of the moment,” Biden told the assembled audience at the Washington Hilton towards the end of his 10-minute address. “Move past the horse race numbers, the gotcha moments and the distractions and the sideshows that have come to dominate and sensationalize our politics. Focus on what’s actually at stake.”


And what Biden believes to be at stake is the future of American democracy should Trump win re-election. That’s a theme he’s regularly returned to when appealing to voters on the campaign trail, and he targeted this particular appeal directly to the press, reminding them of the “critical role” they play in ensuring that Americans receive “the information they need to make an informed decision.”

“Every single one of us has a serious role to play in making sure American democracy endures,” Biden said, while also emphasizing that he wasn’t asking the journalists to pick a side. “In this age of disinformation, credible information that people can trust is more important than ever. And that makes you more important than ever.”

Watch President Biden’s full WHCD remarks below:

Of course, Biden himself has been criticized for not placing more importance on holding regular interviews with the White House press corps. Speaking with TVNewser ahead of the dinner, White House Correspondents’ Association president Kelly O’Donnell acknowledged the challenges the organization has experienced getting its members in the room with the president, saying: “We work at that regularly, and there is more that we would like to see done.”

Earlier in his speech, Biden poked fun at some the complaints about his availability for sit-downs with journalists, including a recent statement published by The New York Times. “Some of you complain that I don’t take enough of your questions,” he remarked, teeing up the anticipated punchline: “No comment.”

“Of course, The New York Times issued a statement blasting me for ‘actively and effectively avoiding independent journalists,'” Biden continued. “Hey, if that’s what it takes to get the New York Times to say I’m active and effective, I’m for it! I do interviews with strong independent journalists who millions of people actually listen to—like Howard Stern.”

But even as he lightly roasted the press, Biden ultimately made it clear that he supports the work that they do. “There are some who call you the enemy of the people—that’s wrong and that’s dangerous,” he remarked. “You literally risk your lives doing your job. Some of your colleagues have given their lives and suffered serious injuries.”

“Others have lost their freedom,” he added, referring to Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich, who has been detained in Russia since March 2023. “Journalism is clearly not a crime—not here, not there, not anywhere in the world.”