DemDaily: Hollywood Descends on DC for Whirlwind Weekend

May 2, 2023

It was a star-studded weekend in DC, with a series of annual events that bring Washington and Hollywood together to celebrate their enduring romance and shared passion for defenders of free expression.

The White House Correspondents' Dinner (WHCD) was held Saturday night, the annual roast of the best and the brightest of journalism, and the people they cover -- with more than a smattering of Hollywood and political elite thrown in.

The red carpet event includes some 2,600 powerbrokers, pundits, journalists, government officials, members of the political and entertainment media, and celebrities -- all too happy to work the room.

The WHCD, which also honors excellence in reporting on the White House, awarded the work of Matt Viser (Washington Post), Jeff Mason (Reuters), Phil Mattingly (CNN), Josh Gerstein and Alex Ward (Politico) and Doug Mills (The New York Times).

Comedian and Daily Show correspondent Roy Woods, Jr. served as Master of Ceremonies to a room of celebrity notables, including Kelly Ripa, Julia Fox, BD Wong, Jason Isaacs, John Legend, Chrissy Teigen, Rosario Dawson, Bradley Whitford, Cobie Smulders, Clark Gregg, Liev Schreiber, J. Smith-Cameron, Ego Nwodim, Lena Headey, Ke Huy Quan, Lisa Vanderpump, Sophia Bush, John Leguizamo, Tim Daly and Fran Drescher.

Other Hollywood heavyweights included Disney boss Bob Iger, Discovery’s Corporate COO David Leavy, Paramount Global Chair Shari Redstone, Fox News CEO Suzanne Scott, Disney Entertainment Co-Chair Dana Walden and media mogul Bryan Allen.

Among the media royalty were Gayle King, Jen Psaki, Karine Jean-Pierre, Stephanie Ruehl, Al Sharpton, Kristen Welker, Wolf Blitzer, Dana Bash, Kate Bolduan, Andrea Mitchell and Poppy Harlow.

The Best of Biden: The evening is also traditionally when the President gets to take a comedic shot at the press corps and other political figures, and Joe Biden rose to the occasion.

The self-deprecating commander-in-chief took the "age issue" head on. “I believe in the First Amendment, and not just because my good friend Jimmy Madison wrote it.

“I get that age is a completely reasonable issue, it’s on everybody’s mind,” referring to his reelection bid, “by everyone I mean The New York Times.”

Biden said, contrary to popular belief, he likes Rupert Murdoch, the 93-year-old owner of Fox News: "How can I dislike a guy who makes me look like Harry Styles? You call me old!...I call it being seasoned. You say I am ancient. I say I am wise. You say I’m over the hill. Don Lemon would say that’s a man in his prime.”

Biden poked fun at Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, saying, “I had a lot of Ron DeSantis jokes ready, but Mickey Mouse beat the hell out of me, he got there first,” referencing the lawsuit filed by Disney against DeSantis.

"If you find yourself disoriented tonight," Biden continued, "you are either drunk or you are Marjorie Taylor Greene.

"The cable news networks are here tonight. MSNBC owned by NBC Universal. Fox News owned by Dominion Voting Systems....with that $787 million settlement, this year [Fox is] here because they couldn’t say no to a free meal. And hell, I’d call Fox honest, fair, and truthful, but then I could be sued for defamation. Look, I hope the Fox News team finds this funny. My goal is to make them laugh as hard as CNN did when they read the settlement."

In digs to Trump, Biden said, "We added 12 million jobs, and that’s just counting the lawyers who defended the [former] president." Biden remarked that he was offered $10 to keep his speech under 10 minutes. "That’s a switch, a president being offered hush money."

Playing on his campaign theme, Biden said, "We have more to do. The job isn’t finished. It is [however] finished for Tucker Carlson."

MC Roy Woods Jr. spared no prisoners in the transition to his turn at the mic: "Oh, real quick, Mr. President, I think you left some of your classified documents up here.

"Y’all look good. You’re dressed nice. You got the jewelry glistening. Look like everybody got a little piece of that settlement money from Fox News." On Fox's firing of Carlson, Woods said, "We got to get Tucker back on the air, Mr. President, because right now there’s millions of Americans that don’t even know why they hate you."

Taking aim at the volatile entertainment industry, he joked, "We got layoffs everywhere...Paramount right now is considering offers from Byron Allen and Tyler Perry to purchase BET. That’s how bad it is out there. Companies are so broke they’ve giving BET back to Black people. Which by the way, is not what we meant when we said Black people wanted reparations.

"We should be inspired by the events in France," Woods added. "They rioted when the retirement age went up two years to 64. They rioted because they didn’t want to work until 64. Meanwhile, in America, we have an 80-year old man begging us for four more years of work."

Many of the A-list celebs were pulling double duty, having spent Friday as citizen lobbyists, meeting with members of Congress on increased federal funding for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA).

The group of some 30 actors and entertainment talent, organized by non-partisan, non-profit The Creative Coalition (TCC), advocated for a notch up in appropriations for NEA -- which invests in programs in virtually event congressional district nationwide.

Formed in 1989, TCC informs its members from every corner of the industry to empower their celebrity status "to move inside the political process -- to actually help shape policy." It carries the entertainment industry's advocacy banner on promoting First Amendment rights, arts advocacy and education.

The day was capped off with TCC's Right to Bear Arts Gala Friday night at the Madison Hotel, a seated, intimate event led by TCC President Tim Daly and CEO Robin Bronk.

The evening was a rallying call for the actor advocates, who individually rose to quote arts-related voices and statistics. Among those, the fact that the United States spends just $226 million annually on the arts, compared to countries like Great Britain, which has one-sixth the population but allocates $1 billion per year in arts spending -- over four times as much as the US.

The nonprofit arts industry alone generates $135 billion in economic activity annually, which supports 4.1 million jobs and produces $22.3 billion in government revenue.

"The arts are the cultural fabric of our country, provide innumerable mental health benefits to children and adults alike, and are a cornerstone of our economy -- the arts are not a luxury, they are essential to who we are as a nation." -- Tim Daly, TCC President

Attendees included: Rachel Bloom (Crazy Ex-Girlfriend), BD Wong (Law and Order), Judy Gold (Hysterical, Better Things), Brendan Hunt (Ted Lasso), Cobie Smulders (Jack Reacher, How I Met Your Mother), Jason Isaacs (Harry Potter), Clark Gregg (The Avengers), Justin Hartley (This Is Us), Billy Eichner (Bros, Difficult People), Sofia Pernas (The Brave), Yvette Nicole Brown (Community), Gloria Calderón Kellett (With Love), Emma Kenney (Shameless), Emily Swallow (The Mandalorian), Grace Caroline Currey (Shazam!), Katherine McNamara (Shadowhunters), and DemList favorites from Young Sheldon, Wendie Malick and Raegan Revord.

The whirlwind weekend was followed by news that the more than 11,000 members of Writers Guild of America (WGA) have gone on strike after final negotiations with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP), which represents studios, TV networks and streaming platforms, failed Monday.

WGA, which is seeking a raise and job security for its members, says that some writers make less now than they did a decade ago due to the impact of streaming services on the industry -- creating "a gig economy inside a union workforce" that devalues the profession of writing.

WGA members voted unanimously to take strike action after their three-year contract expired Monday night at 12:00am Pacific time.

The last massive writers strike, in 2008, lasted 100 days and forced the early shutdown of popular sitcoms, network programs, and late night shows -- which are expected to be the first to go dark this week.

A stark reminder of the "luxury" we take for granted. Let's hope for a Hollywood ending.

DemList will keep you informed.

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Sources: WHCA, TCC, NPR, Politico, CNN, Deadline, People. NBC

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