Joe Biden was in full “Dark Brandon” form on Saturday evening at the White House Correspondents Dinner, and held nothing back as he celebrated the DC media sphere with remarks that both touched on important issues and revealed the levity for which he is famous.
The president spoke just before comedian Roy Wood Jr of The Daily Show took the stage, but Mr Biden’s remarks had the same cutting comedic bite that the seasoned “fake news show” reporters of Comedy Central are best known for.
During his remarks, the president called for the freedom of imprisoned Americans Austin Tice, Paul Whelan and Evan Gershkowitz, a reporter from The Wall Street Journal wrongly accused of espionage and imprisoned by the Russian government.
And then, he turned the focus on those reporters in the room with a series of jokes that certainly left many reporters in the room understanding the “Dark Brandon” meme a little better.
At the top of his list of targets were Fox News, which found itself on the receiving end of a $787m lawsuit from Dominion Voting Systems that led to the company’s embarassing dirty laundy being aired for the entire country, and the broadcaster’s former star Tucker Carlson. Fox’s reporters, Mr Biden quipped, were previously the talk of the town — but now were just hoping the night’s festivities came with a free meal.
“I’d call Fox honest, fair and truthful. But then I could be sued for defamation!” he laughed. “I hope the Fox News team finds this funny. My goal is to make them laugh harder than CNN did when they read the settlement agreement.”
The jokes at the right wing channel’s expense did not stop there. Carlson’s unceremonious firing by FoxCorp execs last week would gain an honourable mention once again as Mr Biden made his case for re-election in 2024.
“We really have a record to be proud of. We vaccinated the nation, transformed the economy … But the job isn’t finished — I mean, it is finished for Tucker Carlson,” he said, enduring a round of groans.
The Florida governor, Ron DeSantis, was not spared the president’s searing gaze. Mr Biden offered a fake anecdote which revealed his view of the rising Republican scion’s intelligence.
“After his re-election as governor, he was asked if he had a mandate. He said, 'Hell no, I’m straight,’’ said the president, earning a “good one!” from his VP Kamala Harris, seated near by.
He took shots at Elon Musk, the billionaire owner of Twitter whose takeover of the website has now been described as having “gone south” by its founder, Jack Dorsey. Elon Musk’s childish anger towards reporters was the president’s target as he went after the CEO for his most recent attempts to disparage journalists at NPR and PBS with a “state-run media” label.
According to Mr Biden, the best way for Mr Musk to make his political enemies disappear? Buy their company, and run it with the same absence of success he has found at Twitter.
Conservatives weren’t the president’s only targets, though. Teeing off on CNN after pounding Fox over the Dominion lawsuit, he quipped that the second-place cable news network likely reacted with shock to learn how much money their colleagues on the right would be forced to pay.
“CNN was like ‘Wow, they actually have $787m!'”
The recently-fired Don Lemon was another target for ridicule, as Mr Biden joked that the comments about Nikki Haley which led to Lemon’s removal — as he tweaked other reporters in the room for focusing on his age.
“Call me old? I call it being seasoned. You say I’m ancient. I say I’m wise. You say I’m over the hill. Don Lemon would say that’s a man in his prime,” he said to groans and surprised laughter.
The president finished his remarks with a nod to “Dark Brandon,” the imaginary alter-ego of Joe Biden dreamed up by his more terminally online supporters as a response to the weirdly coy “Let’s Go Brandon” insult concocted by Trump supporters in 2021 to highlight the supposed senility they say defines the candidate who defeated them in 2020.
Handing over the mic to Wood, Mr Biden warned that his “Dark Brandon” would be listening to the comedian’s jokes — a lighthearted moment that underscored the very real pressure of performing comedy in front of the president and his VP.
All in all, Mr Biden’s remarks seemed primed for 2024 — a president seeking to prove that he still has the same combative energy which won him the White House last time around. What remains to be seen is whether he can keep it, or whether the punchy yet still scripted Joe Biden that emerged on Saturday will be taking a back seat to the polished (if somewhat tired) statesman who reporters interact with most often.
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