The president revisits birther conspiracy theory and takes aim at CNN, while Conan mocks Fox News and "Tonight Show" shuffle
The White House Correspondent Association dinner Saturday night proved fertile ground for Hollywood stars only this time instead of a target, the stars were often the weapons in jokes wielded by President Obama, Conan O'Brien and the group's president Ed Henry.
Steven Spielberg, Kevin Spacey and fellow cast members of Netflix's House of Cards were featured in tongue in cheek videos at the dinner. And the usual news media outlets drew many barbs, put perhaps none were more pummeling then those targeted at CNN.
"I admire their commitment to cover all sides of a story in case just one of them has to be accurate," said President Obama.
O'Brien described television news as a divided landscape.
"Fox News is watched by conservatives. MSNBC by liberals. CNN is watched by the people who clean the offices at CNN. CNN's ratings are so low, that now when the logo comes up, James Earl Jones says, 'You're watching CNN? What the hell!'”
He also described the menu for the dinner as halibut and filet mignon "or as CNN's John King reported it, lasagna and couscous."
President Obama unveiled Spielberg's next movie project –and showed Spielberg in a video talking about the project being "Obama”"and starring "Daniel Day-Lewis." The video then showed "Day-Lewis"—actually the President—talking about what it was like to play Obama and having to put on makeup including the big ears.
The president joked repeatedly about himself and the press.
Noting the opening of President Bush's library last week, President Obama said he wanted to put his own library where he was born, but thought it would be better in the United States.
He also took a second swing at the joke.
"These days, I look in the mirror and I have to admit, I'm not the strapping young Muslim socialist that I used to be,” he said.
He said that he and the press have somewhat different jobs.
"My job is to be president. Your job is to keep me humble. Frankly I am doing my job better,” he said.
He also suggested he was thinking of following the First Lady's style tips, and then was shown in various pictures sporting bangs like those adopted by Michelle Obama.
O'Brien, making his second appearance hosting the dinner—his last was in 1995—noted some of the progress the President had made.
"He's hard at work creating jobs. Since he was first elected the number of popes has doubled, and the number of Tonight show hosts has tripled,” said O'Brien, who also made light of the hosting duties.
"Last year Tom Brokaw criticized this event for having too many superstars and A-list celebrities. When I told Tom I would be attending this year, he said, ‘That's more like it.'"
O'Brien also noted the woes of the print media.
"Some people say print media is dying, I don't believe it. Neither does my blacksmith," he said.
O'Brien also suggested that the success of "Homeland" and "House of Cards" and the dinner indicated "Hollywood can't get enough of your world."
He announced Turner Broadcasting intends to make a major miniseries about the big power players in Washington and revealed the cast with pictures.
According to O'Brien, the cast included Bob Barker as Vice President Biden, Higgins from Magnum PI. As David Axelrod and Mr. Bean as House Budget Committee Chairman Rep. Paul Ryan.
The speeches followed an appearance by the White House Correspondents Association president Ed Henry who said that despite the Hollywood presence at the dinner, the association in the face of criticism has taken some steps to ensure the attention doesn't get out of hand.
He pointed to the association trademarking the White House Correspondents Association dinner name and then asking a group offering "swag" at a predinner party connected to the dinner, to stop doing so.
"Our dinner has to be about politics, not swag."
Henry also offered a video that mixed Kevin Spacey and the cast of "House of Cards" with politicians.
Before the speeches, Hollywood stars did a Washington version of the red carpet, chatting with entertainment reporters.
In interviews by E!, livestreamed this year for the first time, PSY, a last minute guest of CBS News, expressed some amazement at the crowd.
"I didn't know how big this is until last night,” he said. "I just came in from Korea."
Sharon Stone, who has been in Washington for several days on behalf of the Creative Coalition, said the nice thing about the events is for a night politics is put mostly aside.
"Let's say we are all bi for tonight,” she said.
Watch the video of Obama and O'Brien's speeches below.