Speaking at the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner on Saturday in Washington, President Joe Biden vowed to keep fighting for the release of erroneously held Americans abroad.
Biden brought up the suffering of Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich, who was arrested and charged with espionage in Russia on March 29.
Contrary to what the previous administration believed, Biden asserted that a free press is a cornerstone of a free society, if not the pillar.
Gershkovich is one of many Americans being imprisoned abroad on what U.S. officials view as bogus accusations made to turn the detainees into what Vice President Biden called “political pawns” and “human beings as bargaining chips.”
He also mentioned Austin Tice, a former U.S. Marine imprisoned in Syria since 2012 after moving there to work as a freelance writer, and Paul Whelan, a former U.S. Marine currently serving a prison sentence in Russia for what he claims is espionage.
“We’re keeping the faith for Austin,” the president declared. “We won’t give up,”
Brittney Griner, a professional basketball player imprisoned in Russia for the majority of 2022 before being released in December as part of a prisoner exchange with the United States, was acknowledged by Vice President Biden as a special guest at the event.
In the instance of Gershkovich, his company and the Biden administration have refuted claims that he was an American spy. Additionally, the State Department declared Gershkovich unlawfully detained on April 10.
“Tonight our message is this,” Biden said. “Journalism is not a crime.”
The president has an “unwavering commitment to bring home journalists and other Americans wrongfully detained abroad,” according to a senior White House official.
Roy Wood Jr., a correspondent for “The Daily Show,” performed comedy this year and spoke about his father’s career as a journalist and co-founder of the National Black Network on the radio.
Since Barack Obama in 2016, a sitting president hadn’t attended the event until last year.
Biden spoke for under 15 minutes at the 2022 dinner while making jokes about himself and the media.
As he began his remarks, Biden joked, “I’m really excited to be here tonight with the only group of Americans with a lower approval rating than I have.”
In his remarks from the previous year, Biden lauded the value of a free press.
Last year, Biden stated, “What’s evident is that you, the free press, matter more than you ever did in the previous century, and I mean this from the bottom of my heart.
The famous event’s long history dates back to 1914 when the White House Correspondents’ Association was founded. The group hosted its initial dinner in 1921, beginning the yearly custom. But the president didn’t start going until 1924 when Calvin Coolidge took over.
The event is often hosted by comedians who joke about the government and the media.
In 2011, when Biden was serving as vice president, one of the more memorable White House correspondents’ dinners occurred. At that time, Obama and comedian Seth Meyers criticized Donald Trump, who was present.
Trump was visibly unamused as Meyers said, “Donald Trump has been saying that he will run for president as a Republican.” This surprised me because I had assumed that he was running as a joke.
Throughout his administration, Trump missed every dinner for White House reporters.
Trump tweeted that “the White House Correspondents’ Dinner is DEAD as we know it” after comedian Michelle Wolf delivered a scathing 2018 dinner act critical of his administration.
The organization decided to have historian Ron Chernow speak the next year rather than a comic.