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Taoiseach attends 'roast' with Biden, Bezos and CIA boss as US president quips about Varadkar

The Gridiron dinner is held behind closed doors and sees Washington’s elite unwind for a night of self-deprecatory humour.

US PRESIDENT JOE Biden quipped about Leo Varadkar’s younger years when he worked as a congressional intern on Capitol Hill during a Washington ‘roast’ style dinner this evening. 

Varadkar attended the Gridiron Club and Foundation Dinner, the oldest journalist association in Washington DC, sharing a table with Biden, the US Vice President Kamala Harris, as well as Amazon’s Jeff Bezos and Bill Burns, the director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

The club dinner, which includes skits and parodies, often has foreign heads of state in attendance and almost every president has given at least one speech at the annual white-tie dinner.

Leo on the Hill 

In his remarks, Biden made reference to Varadkar saying: 

He took one look at Congress and he asked for another Guinness.

Varadkar worked as an intern on Capitol Hill when he was 21.

Biden was making his first speech as president at the annual white-tie gala for the US media and political elite, an event that Republican former president Donald Trump addressed in 2018.

The dinner is known for political powerhouses poking fun at themselves and others, with Biden this evening taking a few digs at his election opponent.

Speaking at the dinner, Biden made reference to the presidential race:

One candidate’s too old and mentally unfit to be president. The other guy’s me.

He quipped that he was staying up way past his bedtime and added: “The Republicans would rather fail at impeachment than succeed at anything else”.

Taoiseach top of the table 

Biden, sitting at the head table with Varadkar, said that over the coming months the vice president and himself are going to be making the case for how Americans are better off than they were four years ago.

“How we got through the pandemic, turned around the economy, reestablished American leadership in the world — all without encouraging the American people to inject bleach.

“Or without destroying the economy, embarrassing us around the world or itching for insurrection. Look, I wish these were jokes, but they’re not.

“As I said in my State of the Union address, we live in an unprecedented moment of democracy — an unprecedented moment in history. Democracy and freedom are literally under attack. Putin’s on the march in Europe. My predecessor bows down to him and says, ‘Do whatever the hell you want.’ An American president actually said that,” he said.

Welcoming the ambassadors of Ukraine and Estonia to the dinner, Biden also said he would not bow down to Putin.

“Freedom is under assault. The freedom to vote, the freedom to choose and so much more. The lies about the 2020 election, the plot to overturn it, to embrace the 6 January insurrection pose the greatest threat to our democracy since the American Civil War. In 2020, they failed, but … the threat remains.

“A poison coursing through the veins of our democracy. Disinformation everywhere.

There’s a toxic cycle of anger and conspiracy.”

“Every single one of us has a role to play in making sure American democracy endures. This year, you, the free press, have a bigger role than ever. Let me state the obvious: You are not the enemy of the people. You are a pillar of any free society.”

This is the first time Biden has attended the dinner during his presidency, which was held at the Grand Hyatt Hotel this evening.

Biden closed out the dinner by stating that he is still working to bring home journalists Evan Gershovich and Austin Tice, one held in Russia, the other who disappeared during a reporting trip in Syria.

The Gridiron dinner is held behind closed doors with no photos allowed.

With reporting by © AFP 2024 

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