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President Joe Biden speaks at the White House Correspondents' Association Dinner at the Washington Hilton. Alamy Stock Photo

Biden roasts Trump at White House correspondents' dinner as Gaza protest takes place outside

“The 2024 election is in full swing, and yes, age is an issue. I am a grown man, running against a six-year-old,” Biden quipped.

US PRESIDENT JOE Biden poked fun at himself but took sharp aim at his election rival Donald Trump last night at the annual White House Correspondents’ Association dinner, as protesters outside demonstrated against the conflict in Gaza.

A long list of VIP guests, including journalists and celebrities from Chris Pine to Molly Ringwald, arrived in black-tie attire as more than 100 protesters confronted attendees in front of the Washington Hilton hotel chanting “shame on you” and other slogans.

Inside, the topic of Gaza was far from the lips of Biden and the evening’s comedian, Colin Jost of Saturday Night Live (SNL), who roasted Biden for his age and occasional stumble on the Airforce One stairs.

“I would like to point out it’s after 10.00 pm, Sleepy Joe is still awake, while Donald Trump has spent the past week falling asleep in court every morning,” Jost joked, referring to the former president’s appearances at his New York hush-money trial last week.

Amid some self-mockery and ribbing of the press, the 81-year-old president took sharp-elbowed jabs at his 77-year-old presumptive November election rival, quipping that “age is the only thing we have in common. My vice president actually endorsed me.”

Both Jost and Biden struck a more serious tone in addressing what many Americans feel is a politically fraught moment, with Biden telling attendees Trump’s rhetoric was a danger particularly after the 6 January 2021 attack on the Capitol, and that “the stakes couldn’t be higher.”


Comedian Jost, a longtime writer and actor with NBC’s SNL, recalled fondly that his recently deceased grandfather had voted for Biden “because you are a decent man.”

“My grandpa voted for decency and decency is why we are all here tonight,” he told the president.

Biden’s appearance at the banquet is in keeping with longstanding tradition for the event, in which the president and the national media gather for a roast of the US leader – an annual gala that was interrupted during the Trump administration.

“Of course, the 2024 election is in full swing, and yes, age is an issue,” Biden quipped. “I am a grown man, running against a six-year-old.”

If it was all laughs inside, the scene outside the hotel remained serious, with protesters at one point unfurling an enormous, multi-story Palestinian flag from a top-floor window, as others congregated on the road below holding placards, chanting and shouting from bullhorns.

Biden’s every move has been shadowed for months by protesters angry over US support for the Israeli military offensive in Gaza. He has been met by shouts of “Genocide Joe” and noisy calls for an immediate ceasefire.

More than two dozen Palestinian journalists this week issued an open letter urging their American colleagues to boycott the dinner.

“You have a unique responsibility to speak truth to power and uphold journalistic integrity,” said the letter. “It is unacceptable to stay silent out of fear or professional concern while journalists in Gaza continue to be detained, tortured and killed for doing our jobs.”

a-demonstrator-speaks-on-a-microphone-during-a-pro-palestinian-protest-over-the-israel-hamas-war-at-the-white-house-correspondents-association-dinner-saturday-april-27-2024-in-washington-ap-phot A demonstrator speaks on a microphone during a pro-Palestinian protest over the Israel-Hamas war at the White House Correspondents' Association Dinner. Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

According to the New York-based Committee for the Protection of Journalists (CPJ), at least 97 journalists – including 92 Palestinians – have been killed since the current conflict began after Hamas’s attack on 7 October. At least 16 others have been wounded.

The Washington Metropolitan Police Department told AFP it was “prepared to facilitate any safe and peaceful demonstration” but that guests would also be able to access the event.

The gala dinner and a surrounding series of society events took place as the Gaza protest movement has been spreading to colleges across the country, and as police crackdowns on some campuses have led to hundreds of arrests.

The annual dinner has been organized since 1920 by the influential White House Correspondents’ Association, which honors top reporters and awards journalism scholarships.

Last year, 2,600 people attended.

© AFP 2024