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President Barack Obama joking with the media
At the 65th Annual Radio and Television Correspondents Association Dinner last night, President Barack Obama openly acknowledged that mainstream journalists are to be credited with making him a celebrity and even joked that an NBC news anchor is in bed with him.
“Why bother hanging out with celebrities when I can spend time with the people who made me one?” Obama asked the crowd of black tie journalists and media personalities gathered at the Washington Convention Center. “I know where my bread is buttered.”
The president’s joke-filled speech included friendly jabs at political allies and foes alike, including Rahm Emanuel, Hillary Clinton and Fox News.
His joke about “NBC Nightly News” anchor Brian Williams, however, raised the ire of critics who have complained about the media’s lack of objectivity in granting Obama favorable news coverage:
“I have to admit though, it wasn’t easy coming up with fresh material for this dinner,” Obama said. “A few nights ago, I was up tossing and turning trying to figure out exactly what to say. Finally, when I couldn’t get back to sleep, I rolled over and asked Brian Williams what he thought.”
Video of the president’s gag lines, including the Williams joke at roughly the 4:40 mark, can be seen below.
And while the president’s joke was likely a reference to NBC’s “Inside the Obama White House” program, in which Williams and a camera crew shot a reported 150 hours of occasionally intrusive footage at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, the double meaning of a reporter “in bed” with the president wasn’t lost on some critics of the press.
“Although this is a funny joke, it’s actually sad because the joke’s really on us,” commented Noel Sheppard, associate editor of NewsBusters, “for the underlying truth is that Williams and NBC are indeed in bed with the new administration, and everybody present including the guest speaker knows it.”
Sheppard continued on his website, “Not only does Obama clearly understand who got him elected with their disgraceful abdication of journalistic integrity, but they also know it, and rather than be embarrassed by it, they’re proud of it.”
Obama also treaded on political thin ice with critics of the government’s takeover of the auto industry, laughing about nonchalantly giving away car companies.
Crediting a new “plan” for fixing the auto industry to friend Oprah Winfrey, Obama quipped, “If each of you will look under your seat, you will find that you get a car company. You get a car company. And Fox, you get AIG. Enjoy!”
Some of Obama’s other jokes found critics in the audience itself, including a dud about Rahm Emanuel and a crack about the floundering fortunes of media companies, a joke that elicited groans and perhaps even boos from the assembled members of the press.
Nonetheless, Obama’s self-deprecating style won over much of the audience and elicited both laughter and applause, even when he took yet another swipe at the assembled crowd:
Setting up the gathering of television and media journalists by praising their work, Obama then said, “Despite the flood of new media, I think you’re programming is more relevant than ever before … at least that’s the impression I get when I read the blogs every day.”