Right from the party stage at the White House’s correspondent dinner

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The weekend’s question was why – Why?! Why should President Biden, a man of a certain age, with a certain need does not to be culled by a certain infectious virus, exposing oneself to the potential superspreader event that was the hyped return of The White House Correspondents’ Association’s annual dinner? The same dinner, in the same hollow, poorly ventilated basement of the Washington Hilton that Vice President Harris could not attend because she had already tested positive for coronavirus. The same dinner that Anthony S. Fauci, the chief medical adviser to Biden, had decided to skip after some risk management assessment.

After the Gridiron dinner, a covid outburst among Washington’s A-list guests

Why would famous journalists who sounded the earliest pandemic alarms in 2020 – CNN’s Jake Tapper and Don Lemon – want to be among the packed sardines in the Fiola Mare restaurant on a Friday night hosted by the United Talent Agency? Had no one learned anything from the Gridiron dinner in early April? (Or were all 85 people tested positive after the event that celebrated it, perhaps now thinking they were magically immune?) Were we all insane? Rebellious skirt? Or perhaps in desperate need of human companionship in the form of a Kim Kardashian-Pete Davidson observation?

You have not lived until you have experienced the centrifugal force that is Kim K., with wet-looking hair and a tight glittering silver dress that goes through the room with Davidson (in security guard colors) guided her and a small entourage and personal photographer on tow.

Gayle King and Drew Barrymore were pushed away from the red carpet for the ABC News party (Kardashian was the network’s guest), as King later explained. Close riots started when people tried to get a selfie with Kim-‘n’-Pete in the background. (“You do not understand, this is the best moment of my life!” Someone shouted. A journalist who has Kim and Pete as her cell phone backdrop started crying when she showed the pictures she had taken.)

The waters really parted, apart from the many times Kardashian tried leave the dinner folder through exits that were only for Biden, was rejected by the Secret Service and then tried again – like five times. Even the two was unable to escape the ballet performance of servants performing their work – weaving through a tuxedo and beginning crowd of about 2,600 people and tight table arrangements, shouting “Coming through!” and “Make room!” while the winding hills filled with steak and fish dishes extremely close to Kim and Pete’s heads.

MSNBC host Symone D. Sanders cleverly snuck into Kardashian’s entourage to get to the front of the queue to attend the dinner. “I’m shameless. I wanted in quickly, and I thought, ‘I can not get there without Kim Kardashian,’ she said. According to Sanders, who knows everyone as Harris’ former spokesman, Kardashian made only one personal request throughout the evening: that get a picture with White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain. “Her people contacted in advance. They were excited about Ron,” Sanders said.

The correspondent dinner is basically about celebrating journalists by getting the industry together to drink, be happy and exchange admiration with a select group of celebrities. Everyone was required to be vaccinated and have a negative coronavirus test the same day – even the people from Fox News, as Biden pointed out in his speech. It was a return to a kind of normality after three years with President Donald Trump refusing to attend the dinner and two years of pandemic shutdowns thereafter. True to tradition, Biden roasted the press corps (“The only group of Americans with a lower approval rating than I have”), and was then roasted by the invited comedian, Comedy Central’s “Daily Show” host Trevor Noah.

With almost no mask in sight, an alarming one The Twitter thread was circulating about a sensor that places the CO2 levels in the room at more than 2,000 ppm. Biden skipped dinner and only showed up to the speakers, where he and First Lady Jill Biden sat on a podium far from everyone, just in case.

Noah read the room perfectly. “It is my great honor to speak tonight at the nation’s most prestigious superspreader event,” he began.

“I’m a nervous wreck. No one I’ve talked to says they’re fine,” said Gayle King at Washington Network stomach Tammy Haddad’s 27th annual garden brunch. Saturday – one of the weekend’s hottest tickets, especially because it was outside. During peak covid, King did not leave his house for 105 days, she said, but the event was too important to miss.

“I’m happy to see us out. But I’m not exactly hugging everyone,” said Pastor Al Sharpton.

Desus Nice, from Showtime’s “Desus & Mero,” said he could not believe a child from the Bronx was going to sit so close to the action. “Close enough to give Biden covid. You know, if I killed Biden, it’s a flex,” he said, laughing. “No, but I thought, ‘Shall we kill Joe Biden?’ I do not want to be that guy! “

There were standing ovations as the dinner paid tribute to Lifetime Achievement to Alice Dunnigan and Ethel Payne, the first two black women to be members of the White House Press Corps, and tears during an in-memoriam roll for journalists who have been killed, while covering war in Ukraine. Emotions ran high, and so did sloppy drunkenness – as might be expected at the first open bar-winging many had been in for years. Several TV journalists and celebrities shed tears as they spoke to The Washington Post.

Martha Stewart, a guest at the Daily Mail table, told her hosts: “It’s like my sixth or seventh time [here]. I have never sat at a table so far back before. The view is amazing though. “She was so far back that the doors to the kitchen opened every five seconds next to her chair. She was there to laugh, she said,” and I want to see the president in person. Other presidents have not appeared. You know who I’m talking about. “

Star watts were lower than in the Obama years. Kardashian and Davidson were the big draws. Chris Tucker was there, just like Mario van Peebles was there, but who was bullied by more fans? World-saving chef José Andrés.

The weekend had started in full force on Friday for the UTA party, where politics mixed with cable TV stars and plausible denial was the name of the game, as the organizers bet on the large number of maskless parties to, well, mask the origins of Any potential. outbreak of coronavirus.

George Conway was there, but not his wife, Kellyanne. Apparently, CNN’s entire lineup was clammy, while Fox News personalities mostly kept to themselves. Bill Nye the Science Guy came, plus Brooke Shields in a black and white newsprint-inducing suit designed by the late Virgil Abloh. “Wheel of Fortune” host Pat Sajak left with a beautiful blonde, young enough to be his daughter – who you may be relieved to learn, is his daughter, aspiring country singer and Georgetown law student Maggie Sajak.

“I’m her escort,” said the proud father, who spent most of the night doing what smart celebrities do: chatting and posing for pictures with enthusiastic fans of all ages. “If you do not want to do that, do not come,” he said.

At Haddad’s brunch, another tradition was left: rude people speaking through speeches, these honored military veterans. Emcee Stephanie Ruhle was clearly outraged: “All you silly asses who have been talking all along: You’re not coming back.”

At the pre-parties Saturday night at the Hilton, Caitlyn Jenner, who recently joined Fox News as a contributor, stopped by her network’s party. When asked by The Post why she decided to attend the dinner, she “grimaced,” according to a spectator.

Meghan McCain, the former co-host of “The View” who now writes columns for the Daily Mail, was willing to stop and chat. “It’s not fun for the rest of the country to hear people bitch about going to a black tie dinner party,” she said, “so I chose to come and have fun.”

After dinner, the audience spread to after-parties, with many names in bold appearing at Paramount’s party for invitees only at the French Ambassador’s elegant Kalorama residence. There was fine champagne, a sumptuous buffet, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki, and lots of business leaders. It felt rich and mature. The closest anyone came to pushing the envelope was Shields, who switched from his dinner outfit to a white T-shirt, jeans and sneakers. “I was feeling so bad. I thought, ‘Wait, where are we going?’ I was in the car. I changed too soon, “she said.” I’d better drink something, because I’re not dressed accordingly. “

Foreign Minister Antony Blinken gave the evening high marks. “I thought it was great,” he said. “I also thought there was a serious undertone that was right at the moment.” Ashley and Naomi Biden mingled unnoticed; Sens. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) And Christopher A. Coons (D-Del.) Did not. “I missed the parties last night, so I have to do them all tonight, ”Coons told a group of admirers. Gene Sperling, senior advisor to Biden, told Psaki that she looked good on the podium: “Just the right amount of laughter.”

Speaking of jokes: CNN’s Don Lemon (wearing a perfectly tailored tuxedo but no socks), took all the slaps on his network in stiff arm. “It’s like a rose,” he said, shrugging. “What do you want to do? Put on your big boy pants – without socks.”

Nearby, in the residence of the Colombian ambassador, a brass band was playing, and comedian Billy Eichner was still in doubt that the president should name him in his speech. “One of the most surreal moments of my life,” he said. “I’ll probably see it a lot of times to make sure it happened.” How many LGBTQ comedians get to a level where the president knows who they are, he wondered.

At a party for theGrio, the only party this weekend hosted by a Black-owned media company, guests were “The 1619 Project’s” Nikole Hannah-Jones, rapper Fat Joe, CNN’s Abby Phillip and actress Vivica A. Fox. Everyone was there to see Mary J. Blige soar to the stage – which came well after midnight. To the crowd of mostly black politicians and journalists, it felt like a release of the “Family Affair” lyrics about not needing drama or “hate.”

Meanwhile, at Reach at the Kennedy Center, NBC had to ask the crowd of mostly journalists and hangers-on to leave the afterparty, well after 6 p.m. . “

Hours later, the hangover crowds showed up for a CNN brunch at Union Market and a Politico brunch at Robert and Elena Allbritton’s home in Georgetown. More Andrés. Mere Psaki. Bloody Marys helped.

But maybe it was worth it, coronavirus risk and all. When he left Paramount’s party, Desus Nice was emotional about how he had been so moved to see the memorial to journalists who died in Ukraine. “It really put a pause on it,” he said. “We’re out here. We’re just enjoying a party. We’ve got our fresh suits on, and like, people are dying when they report on Ukraine. We need to remember that we’re ultimately here to defend the first amendment. “We are the first to respond to this.”

Helena Andrews-Dyer, Jeremy Barr, Paul Farhi, Elahe Izadi, Sonia Rao and Roxanne Roberts contributed to this report.

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