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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

White House Correspondents' Dinner 2015. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired April 25, 2015 - 21:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[21:00:11]

POPPY HARLOW, CNNMONEY.COM CORRESPONDENT: The red carpet is over. The show is about to begin and the president is ready with his zingers.

Who does he have his sights on this year? You're about to find out.

(MUSIC PLAYING)

HARLOW (voice-over): Tonight, Hollywood's hottest celebrities are sharing the spotlight with Washington, D.C.'s biggest star.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hello, Mr. President.

HARLOW (voice-over): We're giving you a VIP invitation to the most exclusive party of the year in the nation's capital.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So your party, I was impressed.

HARLOW (voice-over): Join A-list celebrities and Hollywood stars as they wine and dine with America's power players.

JULIA LOUIS-DREYFUS, ACTOR: Sort of a clash of Hollywood and politics.

ROBIN WRIGHT, ACTOR: What am I going to regret I said tomorrow morning?

HARLOW (voice-over): It's a night of all-out glamor and lots of laughs. "SNL's" Cecily Strong headlining the night.

CECILY STRONG, COMEDIAN: It's sort of known as a tough room.

HARLOW (voice-over): But the best punchlines may come from the president as he pokes fun as some of the top names in entertainment, the media and politics.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: These days the House Republicans actually give John Boehner a harder time than they give me. Which means orange really is the new black.

(LAUGHTER) HARLOW (voice-over): Now the red carpet is out for a star-studded celebration (INAUDIBLE). This is CNN's coverage of the White House Correspondents' Dinner.

(MUSIC PLAYING)

HARLOW (voice-over): It is 9 o'clock Eastern. We're in New York City, covering the biggest party of the weekend that is taking place in the nation's capital. Some 3,000 guests are somewhere in the middle of their main course inside of the jam-packed Washington Hilton.

How is that for breaking news? Next to a presidential inauguration, I would say the White House Correspondents' Dinner is the hottest ticket in the city and you've got a front row seat.

Hi, everyone. Glad you're with us. I'm Poppy Harlow. This is the special coverage on CNN of the White House Correspondents' Dinner. The dinner will be wrapping up pretty soon, kicking off the events on stage, which will include standup routines by the president, of course, and "SNL" superstar comedian Cecily Strong.

The stars of Hollywood and Washington are together tonight. And we've got our own stars right here in this room and on the red carpet.

CNN's senior political correspondent, Brianna Keilar; CNN national political reporter, Peter Hamby; also Jon Favreau, the former chief speechwriter for President Obama, are on the red carpet in D.C.

With me here with me in New York, comedian D.L. Hughley, CNN commentator Tara Setmayer, Laurie Segall of CNNMoney, looking at all that great social media out there, what people are making fun of.

And New York One political reporter Errol Lewis. And right next to me we've got reporter Patrick Gavin, who has a new documentary all about tonight, it's called "Nerd Prom " and it's actually about some really important stuff about tonight that isn't always covered, something you don't always see.

So say what you want about the red carpet and whether they should have one at an event like this or not, whether there should be so many celebrities there or not.

But for a few hours there, it was the place to be.

Brianna, you know, if you report on Hillary Clinton, you follow her very, very closely. She is not there this evening.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN SR. WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: She's not there this evening. A number of her top aides are. But this is a very eclectic red carpet that we were able to see earlier, just a crush of people that were behind me that are now inside of this dinner.

And it's interesting, because you have Hollywood coming here. For instance we have Laverne Cox and she talked about something very topical, Bruce Jenner coming out and saying that he's a woman who struggled being transgender since he was a kid. So making news on the news of the day.

And then you have politicians, because we're in this mix period for 2016 when you have a lot of candidates who are weighing whether they're going to run. So we were able to pin down Governor O'Malley, who may run against Hillary Clinton.

We also got a taste from Silicon Valley, which is generally underrepresented here at the dinner but showed up tonight in the form of the CEO of Airbnb.

Here are some of the greatest hits.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KEILAR: Do you think your husband would make a great president?

CATHERINE O'MALLEY, BALTIMORE CITY DISTRICT COURT JUDGE: Oh, he'd be wonderful.

KEILAR: Why?

CATHERINE O'MALLEY: He's very smart. He's very, very dedicated to when he was the mayor of Baltimore City, when he was a city councilman, when he was the governor. He does great things. He works very hard and he definitely has his heart in it.

KEILAR: Where do you think you could really, I guess, stake out a position? We've seen lately a very bad week for Hillary Clinton when it comes to this book, Clinton Cash coming out, questions about the foundation.

What is really your answer to that and for the questions about transparency that it's raised?

MARTIN O'MALLEY, FORMER GOVERNOR OF MARYLAND: Usually what I spend my time focused on is becoming as crystal clear in the ideas and the frameworks that I can offer to move our country in a better direction.

[21:05:00]

KEILAR: Are you ready to really take her on in a way that shows people you are thinking of being a serious candidate?

MARTIN O'MALLEY: Brianna, I've never run a bad race. And I don't intend to if we do this.

KEILAR: You're obviously toying with the idea of running for president. You all but said you would yesterday in Richmond. Tell us about that.

Are you going to?

MARTIN O'MALLEY: Well, we're looking at it seriously. The country is going to hell, such bad decisions are being made. We're not respected by anybody. So I'll be making a decision fairly soon. We've had great response. I mean, nobody thinks I'm going to run, that's the only thing.

KEILAR: Well, you toyed with it before and --

MARTIN O'MALLEY: I've looked at it before. But you know, unfortunately Mitt Romney didn't carry the ball very well and just -- he failed us.

KEILAR: When people think of Washington, they don't always think, wow, that's a technologically advanced place.

So what can Silicon Valley really do to lead the way when it comes to Washington getting itself together, when it comes to tech?

BRIAN CHESKY, CEO, AIRBNB: We've hired a number of people that were based out of Washington coming from the White House. And I do think that Washington is moving forward quite quickly, becoming more technologically advanced. You're starting to see with a lot of the campaigns. And I think the more technology in Washington, Silicon Valley and Washington can work together, the more we're going to be consistent about what the people and what the government wants. I think it's a really important thing to happen.

KEILAR: And what's interesting, Poppy, is, as we await the real highlight off the evening, and that is the jokes coming from Cecily Strong of "SNL" and President Obama, a lot of the people that we saw even just there in that piece and some of the people we saw milling around, the president will know that they're here.

So if he can take a little bit of a shot at them, this is a great opportunity to do that and get the reaction that's really one of the highlights of the show.

HARLOW: And he hasn't hesitated to do that in the past. That will be an interesting evening, that's for sure. Bri, thanks so much. We'll get back to you in just a moment.

But if you want to know really at the core what this dinner is all about, you need to know about the White House Correspondents' Association. It was started back in 1914, with the sole mission of pushing for broad access for the press to the president and supporting vigorous reporting on the presidency.

The group's first dinner was held back in 1921 and started out as a small group of about 50 people and it has very much evolved since then, for better or for worse, thanks to live television, like us broadcasting it. Also thanks to Hollywood A-listers in attendance.

The association now estimates more than 2,000 people attend. The White House Correspondents' Dinner also raises money for college scholarships. A lot of people, including one of my panelists here, say it could be a lot more money that they raise.

Joining me in New York, Laurie Segall from CNNMoney, comedian D.L. Hughley, reporter Patrick Gavin, who recently spent a year making the documentary Nerd Prom: Inside Washington's Wildest Week" and CNN political commentator Tara Setmayer and CNN political commentator Errol Lewis.

Guys, thank you very much for being here. Welcome.

Errol, thanks for joining us.

Let's talk about this, on a very serious note, this comes, Errol, look, at the same time as literally the streets of Baltimore are filled with protesters.

And you have seen, from Ferguson on, protests around this country about police brutality.

How does the president walk the line? That and the drone strikes that we found out this week killed two hostages, one American citizen.

ERROL LEWIS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I thought you were going to ask what are all those reporters doing there sipping cocktails when literally a couple of miles away you have people rioting in the streets?

HARLOW: A question, right?

LEWIS: And by the way, there was a big right-wing social issues protest on the mall today, as well. So there's a lot of news that is going past these folks. For the president, he's not going to touch any of that stuff. You might hear something along the lines of black lives matter.

And we should keep in mind that when all of the jokes are done, this president at least and really all presidents, they come down a little bit and they talk seriously and earnestly and directly to the crowd. You don't pass up to a chance to talk to Supreme Court justices and correspondents and Hollywood celebrities and lobbyists and so forth.

HARLOW: Captive audience.

LEWIS: Right. It's a captive audience and the role of the president, particularly one person in the room who can do this, is to really try to bring everybody together. And that's what Obama has done in the past. I would be surprised if he didn't take the opportunity to do so again tonight.

HARLOW: How do you think, Patrick, that he does walk the line, given the time we're in? When you think back to 2011, he spoke at this dinner, made those jokes knowing that Navy SEALs were gearing up this highly risky mission of killing Osama bin Laden?

PATRICK GAVIN, JOURNALIST: It is very tricky for him. Obviously he wants to be funny, but there's the audience inside the room, then there's the audience outside the room. He doesn't want to be viewed as making light of these things.

There is a lot going on right now. He has to address it and I think he has to take it seriously. If he doesn't, I think people look at both that ballroom and also the president himself and it just seems incredibly out of sync with what's going on. So I do think you're right. He'll probably comes toward the end of

the speech, where he says, OK, on a much more serious matter, we have got all these things going on.

[21:10:00] Otherwise, if he doesn't touch on it at all, it seems as if Washington is completely oblivious to what's happening.

HARLOW: Interesting deal. You said that actually the president should touch on it and push the envelope and joke about these things.

D.L. HUGHLEY, COMEDIAN: Well, I think jokes humanize. And I think ultimately it's the -- as a comic, you know that you're supposed to talk about the most obvious thing in the room, it's the elephant in the room. It is the thing, like Errol pointed out, it would make them seem even more trite than a lot of people believe they are. So I think it would definitely look out of sync and I think there's a way that you have to do it, not want to alienate anybody, but I think risking not saying anything is a bigger risk than saying something --

(CROSSTALK)

TARA SETMAYER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Historically that this has happened in the past where the president does have a captive audience and there is trying to balance seriousness versus making light of the situation. FDR had to do it. "National Journal" had a great piece about this, how when FDR, when we were preparing for war, he (INAUDIBLE). They took a couple of funny things but then he really used that as an opportunity to prepare the country with all of those journalists in the room, prepare the country for us entering into World War II.

It was only a few months before Pearl Harbor when that happened. And there was a representative in the audience from the Japanese government -- the Japanese consulate. And so the irony of that, who was in the audience back then and what FDR did as we were preparing for World War II. So there was historical precedent for it.

GAVIN: I think some years the president won't say -- I could have my facts wrong, but I believe it was the year after the Virginia Tech shooting, this dinner fell right after it, and so the president just got up and said let's remember the victims and then told no jokes at all. So sometimes they skip the comedy.

HARLOW: What are people saying on social media that they, A, want to hear from the president, but B, he has to be ready for the worldwide reaction on social media after whatever he does choose to say and how he does choose to walk that line.

LAURIE SEGALL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I think right now it's just anticipation. I think people are just talking about how they're waiting for it and (INAUDIBLE) talking about, they're at the table, they're just trying to bide time. This is kind of the prime time show.

But I think people will want to hear him address these things. I think if you can hit that point where you can do it in the right way and the right tone and that's very, very hard to do. But if you can do that, I think people will appreciate that and I

think that has this ability to go viral where people are retweeting and it goes out and your message gets out the right way. Now it could also go the wrong way where you say the wrong thing and it also goes viral. And in this age of tweeting, we've got Facebook and everything you say can be scrutinized.

HARLOW: Absolutely. Absolutely.

(CROSSTALK)

SETMAYER: Now it's what's the tweet going to do? My, how things have changed.

HARLOW: I do want to play this sound bite from back in 2000. Bill Clinton, in terms of talking about playing something up that really can change the conversation. Let's roll.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) for him, it's just like he has nothing to do.

(MUSIC PLAYING)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm a little bit worried about him. This morning, for example, he came into the Oval Office for a meeting and I said, Mr. President, is everything all right?

And he said yes, what's the matter?

And I said, Mr. President, you're wearing your pajama bottoms.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I really have nothing to say about that.

HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: I wish I could be here more, but I really think Bill has everything under control.

BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Wait, wait, wait! (INAUDIBLE).

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARLOW: That's obviously on a lighter note, that's something about following tragedy, but it is, Errol Lewis, about a president being able to shift the conversation and, you know, Clinton, a lot of people liked seeing that.

LEWIS: Very much like D.L said. If the elephant in the room is that you're a lame duck, this is in the spring of 2000, you were counting down to when he was going to leave, he'd had an incredible, tumultuous eight years, and yes, you've got to sort of poke some fun at that.

HARLOW: (INAUDIBLE) he thought that video resurrected his image somewhat. LEWIS: And I remember it did. He showed him pedaling through the halls of the White House, completely empty with absolutely nothing to do. It had a funny scene with the late Helen Thomas in the Briefing Room. He's taking questions, there's one person there.

HARLOW: I'm glad you brought Helen Thomas up, by the way, because she's why -- aren't I right? Why women are there. She's the one, Laurie, you brought up earlier, boycotted and said to Kennedy you have got to let women in.

GAVIN: Right. Kennedy said he would not come to the dinner unless they admitted women. They admitted women because obviously they don't want the president to skip it.

HARLOW: Girl power.

By the way, big girl power tonight, because the fourth female comedian to host is happening tonight, Cecily Strong. In the 80-plus year history of this dinner, folks, there have only been three female comedians to host it. Tonight will be number four.

About time another woman graces that podium. All right. Stick around for the best routines from past dinners.

And later, very cool guy joining us. He was a star basketball player for Duke and President Obama's first body man.

So what does Reggie Love do for act three?

You're watching CNN's special coverage of the White House Correspondents' Dinner.

[21:15:00]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[21:18:29]

HARLOW: Welcome back to our special coverage of the White House Correspondents' Dinner. I've got a great group with me here. We've got a great team on the red carpet. You're not going to miss a second, including President Obama's remarks when he gets up. We'll bring them to you live.

Also, "SNL," "Saturday Night Live" superstar Cecily Strong, she is the headliner. We'll bring you her remarks as well. But before that, I want to go to a very special lady, a lady I miss seeing every day in the halls of CNN, Michelle Turner, "Entertainment Tonight" anchor and CNN contributor.

You've been doing amazing, but I miss seeing you every day. Thanks for being with me.

Having fun? NISCHELLE TURNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. I've been having a

great time. And by the way, I was watching before I came back down here to hang with you guys, I was watching you and you look phenomenal. Sorry that we're having a girl moment on CNN right now, but we are.

HARLOW: Shout out to the hair and makeup people, because I don't wake up like this.

TURNER: Well, my dress is a little too tight, so shout out to those apple chips that I was eating.

HARLOW: Nischelle, what are you seeing there in terms of your "Entertainment Tonight" anchor? A lot of people say this dinner has gone bananas in terms of too many celebrities. It's all about the celebrities, not about the politics.

What are you seeing?

TURNER: Yes. But that's the fun of it for me. This is one of my favorite events every year. I covered for CNN for so many years and now I'm doing it for "Entertainment Tonight" this year. And actually I think it's fun because actually, you would think that maybe the celebrities would come in and have their chests puffed out a little bit.

But what I find is that they are so geeked out and so excited to meet the folks that are work

[21:20:00] here every day in Washington, even more so I think than the political folks are excited to meet them.

So I think it's really fun to see them all excited and nervous and trying to figure out who they're going to talk to and what table they're going to be at. But I have to tell you tonight, I would want to be at the Disney table, because it's going to be a wild, crazy table, the cast of "Blackish," the cast of "Modern Family" and the cast of "Scandal," all together at one table. And I will tell you, tonight on the red carpet, Anthony Anderson from "Blackish" told me just a few weeks ago at the White House Easter egg roll, he got, in his words, "politely escorted from the White House." He got kicked out of the White House.

Yes, he said, you know, there's nothing like when a Secret Service agent comes and grabs you by the elbows and says, "This way, Mr. Anderson, please."

Apparently he found a spot in the White House that he was not supposed to be in and got a little lost in the wrong place and they escorted him out.

HARLOW: I think it's so funny, Nischelle, or just interesting really to watch this obsession with D.C. dramas. Like "House of Cards" and "Veep" and you name it, "Scandal."

Do you think that -- I guess what is your read on the fascination of Hollywood with Washington?

TURNER: Well, you know what? I think, number one, I'm one of those people who is fascinated with that kind of collaboration. I think that here, you really actually see some of the stars from these shows getting ideas, because these shows are all ripped from the headlines.

So there is definitely a fascination, there's definitely a collaboration. We do see some of it all hyped up and getting bigger and bigger. But I love it, because I really do think that some conversations that are had inside there tonight, we do see play out on television.

I've had several conversations tonight with people, some of the guys from "Scandal" and other shows saying, do you have certain people you're going to target and talk to, to get ideas?

I say yes, absolutely. So I think it's all in fun and you know what? We love a good drama. What's better than political drama? Peter Hamby is sitting over here next to me like, yes, you're right.

HARLOW: I just wish there wasn't so much drama in getting anything done and accomplished in Congress. But yes, you're right.

TURNER: Oh, come on, Poppy, we wouldn't have anything to talk about 24 hours a day on CNN if that happened.

HARLOW: No one could say it better. And now you can say it, being the anchor for "Entertainment Tonight." Nischelle, Turner, thank you. Have a great time tonight. Appreciate your joining us.

It's been said that the difference between salad and garbage is timing. Timing is everything and it's certainly going to be everything tonight. Comics probably live by this creed.

D.L., the president, good comedic timing?

HUGHLEY: I think Anthony Anderson should have got kicked out of the Easter egg hunt. Timing is everything. He truly does have a captive audience. Nobody will heckle him. He can't get fired. He's not walking a tightrope without a net. And I think jokes really resonate when they have stakes to them and I think the backdrop is set for them to really score.

HARLOW: And D.L. wants the president to hit some of these big issues like what's happening in Baltimore. Right now we'll see if he does. And for those who perform at the White House Correspondents' Dinner, it could go either way. So what we've done is we've pulled together some of the best from over the years.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How about the president's performance tonight, everyone? It is -- it's amazing that you can still bring it with fresh, hilarious material and my favorite bit of yours is when you said you would close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay. That was a classic. That was hilarious, hilarious. Still going.

Mr. President, you have to admit and you already have, the launch of healthcare.gov was a disaster. It was so bad. It was bad. Look, I don't even have an analogy, because the website is now the thing people use to describe other bad things.

They say things stuff like, I shouldn't have eaten that sushi, I was up all night healthcare.goving.

Boy that latest Johnny Depp movie really healthcare.goved at the box office.

Oh, look at my new rug. The dog's healthcare.goved on it. You can't get healthcare.gov out of shag.

JIMMY KIMMEL, ABC HOST: Mr. President, I know you won't be able to laugh at any of my jokes about the Secret Service, so cover your ears, if that's physically possible.

(LAUGHTER)

KIMMEL: Last week we learned that the president's two favorite steaks are ribeye and seeing eye. And it doesn't matter if you're black like President Obama, or white like President Obama or red like President Obama's agenda.

[21:25:00] Remember when the country rallied around you in hopes of a better tomorrow? That was hilarious.

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So it's not a strong field. And who knows if they can beat you in 2012. But I tell you who could definitely beat you, Mr. President. 2008 Barack Obama. You would have loved him.

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So charismatic, so charming.

Was he a little too idealistic? Maybe. But you would have loved him. And I have to say nothing is more depressing about politics than the fact that adult is now a compliment. Adult is only a compliment to a child.

I'm so proud of you, you acted like an adult tonight.

I'm glad I brought you to my boss' house for dinner, you even cut your own meat like a big boy.

Also Congress, there are a lot of things you want us to be impressed by that we are not impressed by. We are not impressed that you sat next to each other at the State of the Union.

You know what the rest of Americans call an evening spent politely sitting next to a person with wildly different political views? Thanksgiving.

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tonight, though, we mark the end of an era. Sorry, George W. Bush is leaving in eight months, the vice president is already moving out of his residence. It takes longer than you think to pack up an entire dungeon.

The...

(LAUGHTER)

STEPHEN COLBERT, COMEDIAN: I mean, nothing satisfies you. Everybody asks for personnel changes, so the White House has personnel changes. And then you write, oh, they're just rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.

First of all, that is a terrible metaphor. This administration is not sinking. This administration is soaring. If anything, they are rearranging the deck chairs on the Hindenburg.

(LAUGHTER)

JON STEWART, HOST, "THE DAILY SHOW": Rosie O'Donnell was the president's first choice to be here this evening and she withdrew, citing a nasty and brutal confirmation process.

(LAUGHTER)

STEWART: I wasn't even the second choice. Dennis Miller was the second choice, but he got hung out by an illegal nanny technicality.

But isn't that what the confirmation process is all about here in Washington, weeding out the truly qualified to get to the truly available?

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARLOW: First of all, can we talk about Jon Stewart's hair? He looked amazing right there.

D.L. Hughley, you were -- for our viewers who didn't see this earlier, you were asked to host during President Bush and you said, no, because they wanted to see your jokes.

HUGHLEY: Right. Yes, I don't think you would be able to tell jokes like --

HARLOW: Oh, Colbert did.

HUGHLEY: Well, he did and you saw how people didn't laugh. But I love that he attacked Obama's signature, that healthcare.gov, they had 176,000 -- Peaches and Herb have more Facebook friends than that.

But the fact that he could take it so well and the fact that he really -- that is his signature --

HARLOW: He didn't take that one well.

HUGHLEY: He took it well. I thought he took it very well.

HARLOW: He looked a little unnerved.

HUGHLEY: And I think the idea that you can really take people to task for the things that they -- listen, regardless of what people think about that, that is what this president, that is his signature piece of legislation and they attack it.

HARLOW: If you were headlining tonight, D.L., what is your opening line?

HUGHLEY: I probably couldn't say it here.

HARLOW: Why? This is cable. Not trying to get anyone in trouble.

HUGHLEY: I would definitely say something about black lives matter. To me, I just think that the backdrop, the juxtaposition of them having this kind of event and people -- and I think Baltimore is a metaphor for what is happening around the country to a lot of people. And I think it's -- I couldn't be a black comedian --

HARLOW: I want to get Laurie in there quick and then we'll go to the red carpet, because people are talking about this online.

SEGALL: It's so interesting you say this, because people are -- I'm moderating what people are chatting about. They're using the same hashtag everyone is using, #nerdprom, this kind of stuff, but they're talking about Baltimore. I'm looking at one right now that says the red carpet is happening at the same time #FreddieGray protesters are fighting with police in riot gear 35 miles away in Baltimore.

So on a more somber note, this is what people want to hear about and this is what people are talking about or making sure to use the same hashtag, because they want to be a part of that conversation.

HARLOW: Yes. It's important. I do want to get to the red carpet to Brianna Keilar, Peter Hamby, Jon Favreau.

Hey, Bri.

KEILAR: Hey there, Poppy. We're actually joined now by a very special guest, Kate Andersen Brower, whose new book, which is a scintillating work inside of the White House to the men and women over the decades have served president after president. It's called "The Residence" and it goes to number one on "The New York Times" best seller list tomorrow.

So congratulations.

KATE ANDERSEN BROWER, AUTHOR: Thank you.

KEILAR: And also Kevin Spacey's production company has bought the rights to it. So we're looking

[21:30:00] at a dramatic series coming up.

BROWER: Yes. It's kind of like a "House of Cards" meets "Downton Abbey" at the White House. Talking about the real-life stories that happen every day with the butlers, the maids, the chefs, and you know how they interact with the first family at the White House, the human story.

KEILAR: We should mention that you were a White House correspondent and this is how you came up with the idea. Tell us about that.

BROWER: I was. I was a White House correspondent for Bloomberg News for several years. And I came up with the idea when I was at a lunch with Michelle Obama and it was all very, you know, it was in the old family dining room on the state floor of the White House, a room that you rarely get to see as a White House correspondent.

And a butler was coming in and out of the room, serving her and she clearly had a rapport with him. And it made me wonder, who are these people? And it really is the supporting cast of the White House, the "Downton Abbey" at the White House.

KEILAR: Yes, it's really fascinating.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How far back did you go in your research?

BROWER: I started with the Kennedy administration. Some of these people started during Eisenhower's administration. Sadly, a few of these butlers I interviewed have passed away in the past few years, when I started my research, but they are really the only people left who remember what the Eisenhowers and the Kennedys were really like. And I think that's very important to talk to them.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not to get too in the weeds on the Hollywood aspect of your book, but have you been able to glean any sense of why Spacey is so fascinated by Washington?

(CROSSTALK)

BROWER: He really loves this. In every cutaway shot we see, he's totally having a great time.

BROWER: It's great fodder for a dramatic series. The fact that there are these human relationships. We know very little -- a little about what the president and the first family are really like. I think delving into that, even with "House of Cards" just this last season, you can see a lot of that interaction with the butler standing there and the president and the first lady arguing and them witnessing this silently and not revealing any of this. They're very discreet. I think it makes a perfect TV series.

KEILAR: So back to the dinner here. You've been to a number of these dinners and we actually pulled up a picture of probably one of your favorite moments that just shows how weird things can get here. Tell us about this. BROWER: It really -- it's amazing. I invited General Richard Myers to the dinner and he was the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. An they sat us, strangely enough, next to Pamela Anderson. And the two of them chatted all night.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: About what?

BROWER: Military strategy and things like that. Yes, she was very interested in it. Her son was like fascinated with it. And he had a great time. He was absolutely --

KEILAR: Of course he did.

BROWER: That's what happens at these dinners. You have like these -- just the juxtaposition of these celebrities with these very serious officials. That's what makes it so interesting.

KEILAR: Also, she would have an interest, you know, you would think she's an actress and that's probably her wheelhouse, but she's interested in the military.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All of us have found when you talk to actors or celebrities, athletes who come here, again, like a lot of people in D.C. are jaded about this event, but people do come here with wide eyes. And you could be a famous correspondent, you could be someone who works at the White House. You could be just Joe Schmo producer at a network. And I've found that talking to people, they are genuinely curious about campaigns, politics, like how it works here. Hollywood and Washington view each other with this sort of exoticism, and they just want to figure each other out.

BROWER: Yes, she was excited to be here. She was doing something for PETA at the time, but she told me she was going to the exorcist (ph) steps near Georgetown (INAUDIBLE) a tourist. I think a lot of the celebrities come here as tourists and they see it with fresh eyes and they're excited by it, which makes me more excited about it.

Like you said, when you live here, you do get kind of jaded and it's not as interesting. But it is a fascinating place to be.

KEILAR: All right. We're going to head back to Poppy in New York. Special thanks to Kate Andersen Brower for talking and again, congratulations. Fabulous news about your book, "The Residence," that it goes to "The New York Times" best seller list.

Number one tomorrow, Poppy.

HARLOW: That's amazing. I got to have Kate on my show a few weeks ago. And was like uber impressed with her. But she sets the bar so high because, Bri, now we have to go write "New York Times" best sellers and then get them to buy the movie rights and all that stuff.

KEILAR: Yes. I mean, no big deal.

HARLOW: NBD. Congrats, Kate. That's awesome.

Laurie Segall joining me here because next, we'll talk about the woman headlining the night, Cecily Strong. I know she is preparing.

SEGALL: She is, she is, everyone is buzzing about her. Can't wait to hear from her.

There are a couple of pictures that were just posted that are so lovely. There's one from "Saturday Night Live," where it's a picture of her and the Obamas. She's obviously getting ready for her big moment. You're looking at it right there.

And then there's another one and I love this puppy. It's a behind- the-scenes look at her practicing her lines. If you look closely, you can see the Obamas in the background. So you can tell she's probably a little nervous, but she's prepping.

HARLOW: A little backstory here, she told me when I

[21:35:00] interviewed her that she found out like six months ago about this gig but tried not to prepare until just a few weeks ago because it was way too much pressure.

Can you imagine knowing that, the weight of that on your shoulders?

And we are just moments away from this program and Cecily Strong and the president speaking. We'll dip in as soon as that begins. But also, we'll hear from her, you know, her from "SNL," the girl you wish you hadn't started a conversation with at a party? My interview with Cecily Strong, next.

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(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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HARLOW: Welcome back to our special coverage of the White House Correspondents' Dinner.

For years, it was male only, a male-only event, even though the Correspondents' Association, of course, allowed women. Well, that changed in 1962 and tonight is another big night for the ladies, as the dinner welcomes "SNL" comedian Cecily Strong.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

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HARLOW (voice-over): No pressure standing alongside the leader of the free world.

OBAMA: How do you like my new entrance music?

HARLOW (voice-over): None, none at all.

CECILY STRONG, COMEDIAN: He goes first.

HARLOW (voice-over): "Saturday Night Live" superstar Cecily Strong. She's this year's queen of the nerd prom, the belle of the beltway

ball. And she has got the toughest job in this room, packed with celebrities and journalists.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STRONG: People are angry, Seth. Society is angry. And sometimes it's not angry enough. Open your

[21:40:00] eyes, people. War, hunger, diseases. It's like, pick one.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARLOW (voice-over): Hosting the White House Correspondents' Dinner is a job some have turned down. It's a job of awkward moments --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The launch of healthcare.gov was a disaster.

HARLOW (voice-over): And fighting words.

COLBERT: I believe the government that governs best is the government that governs least and, by these standards, we have set up a fabulous government in Iraq.

(LAUGHTER)

HARLOW: You said some people encouraged you not to do this. Why?

STRONG: I think, no offense, it's sort of known as a tough room. When it was made public, a lot of people then, very nice, were like, congratulations. I think I would just go like, yes, thank you.

OBAMA: Let's face it, FOX, you'll miss me when I'm gone. It will be harder to convince the American people that Hillary was born in Kenya.

(LAUGHTER)

HARLOW: So you won't be writing any of the president's jokes?

STRONG: No, he's not getting my jokes. I'm sure he's fine. I need the help. He can write my jokes.

HARLOW (voice-over): The story of how she got here is remarkable.

HARLOW: Do you pinch yourself?

STRONG: Oh, constantly. "SNL" especially was such a dream job.

HARLOW (voice-over): Just three years ago, Strong was touring with the Second City comedy troupe and, OK, she says, with being poor forever. And then at a 2012 comedy showcase in her native Chicago, she caught the eye of "SNL" creator Lorne Michaels.

HARLOW: It's been three years now?

STRONG: Yes.

HARLOW: What was the most like when it actually sunk in?

STRONG: I think it's still sinking in. I think at the 40th, that was another moment for all of us on the current cast. We were all crying and kind of holding each other, good night, it's just like, I can't believe, if I look to my left and look to my right right now, there's just these true heroes and legends and to get to be on the stage with them is still just super overwhelming.

HARLOW (voice-over): Boundaries have been tested.

WANDA SYKES, COMEDIAN: Rush Limbaugh, I hope this country fails. I hope his kidneys fail. How about that? He needs a good waterboarding, that's what he needs.

HARLOW (voice-over): The question is, how far will Cecily Strong go?

STRONG: I don't think I've ever been known as a real envelope pusher necessarily jokes wise. I would hope not to hurt -- I don't want to be mean. I would rather be funny and, of course, I'll have a couple pointed remarks. But hopefully it's all funny. I would hope it's funny. It's funny to me.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STRONG: Sebelius says she's stepping down because she has so many more things she wants to barely accomplish.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARLOW: Given the state of Washington these days, what's fair game?

STRONG: I mean, I think there's a lot going on that's a little bit silly.

HARLOW: Name one.

STRONG: Oh, gosh. Well, I think -- right now we've got the presidential election coming up, so there's a lot of people that are really fun targets.

COLBERT: Over the last five years you people were so good over tax cuts, WMD intelligence, the effect of global warming. We Americans didn't want to know and you had the courtesy not to try to find out.

HARLOW: Stephen Colbert back in 2006, really pushed the envelope.

STRONG: Yes.

HARLOW: Some people loved it, some people hated it.

STRONG: I loved it.

HARLOW: You loved it? STRONG: I will not be that, though because it's just different circumstances and I think he's incredible and I don't know. I think everything is just different. But I was a big fan of him. I thought that was incredible.

HARLOW: You have said that you think everyone in D.C. is pretty much a drunk murderer.

STRONG: "House of Cards," right. Bill Clinton said it's true. He said 99 percent of it is true.

HARLOW (voice-over): Her former "Weekend Update" castmate, Seth Meyers, hosted the dinner in 2011 and has been helping Cecily prepare.

SETH MEYERS, COMEDIAN: What happened to you? When you were sworn in, you looked like the guy from the Old Spice commercials. Now you look like Louis Gossett Sr.

(LAUGHTER)

STRONG: His main bit of advice was to be able to self-edit. I think that was an important one, to use cards so that if something is not hitting with the crowd, I can kind of be like, well, those jokes aren't working.

But those are the ones I like to push even harder then. That's the difference between Seth and me.

HARLOW (voice-over): She's only the fourth female comedian to take on the task in the storied event's 80-plus year history.

STRONG: I think what's nice is that it doesn't feel like such a big deal to me right now. Because I think with having Amy and Tina doing so much, it's such a great time for women in comedy right now and because women are so strong in comedy and strong comedic voices right now, it just feels like, oh, of course there would be a woman. Like why not?

HARLOW (voice-over): To help her prepare for the big night, we thought a pitstop to "THE SITUATION ROOM" was in order.

[21:45:00]

HARLOW: Can you say hello to Wolf Blitzer?

STRONG: No.

HARLOW: Please?

STRONG: Lorne, what did I -- this isn't in my rider. I will not speak to Wolf Blitzer.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: You've seen the film about me called "Anchorman."

HARLOW: Any advice for her? BLITZER: Be yourself. Be happy, enjoy it and have. Because we're

there to have fun.

STRONG: Yes, that's true. I've got a good support team there, too. And like I said, my dad is a loud laugher, so...

BLITZER: You want to rehearse one of your lines with me?

STRONG: No, no, no, I'm not ready.

HARLOW (voice-over): All the fame hasn't gotten to this funny girl's head.

STRONG: But it doesn't feel like a huge deal.

HARLOW (voice-over): But it is a huge deal and it's about time another woman graces that podium.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HARLOW: She's going to be amazing tonight. Stay tuned for Cecily Strong, as you can see there on the bottom of your screen, they are kicking off the program. As soon as the president speaks, we'll get straight to that.

And when I come back, we'll be joined by the president's former body man. What exactly is a body man anyway?

Reggie Love was once called President Obama's surrogate son. He joins us next from the red carpet.

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(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Four hundred days in prison in Egypt for the crime of practicing journalism.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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HARLOW: Welcome back to our special coverage of the White House Correspondents' Dinner as we wait for President Obama to address the 2,600 people in the room and "SNL" superstar Cecily Strong to

[21:50:00] speak. We'll go down to the red carpet. Brianna Keilar is there, along with Peter Hamby and Reggie Love.

They say, Brianna, that Reggie was President Obama's body man, right?

And I always think it's funny.

What does that actually mean?

KEILAR: Yes, what does that mean? And quick plug, because you actually write all about it in "Power Forward: My Presidential Education," which was out in February and you can purchase now.

But what is a body man?

Is that a bodyguard? No.

REGGIE LOVE, FORMER OBAMA BODY MAN: Well, it's funny though. Ironically, when you see a guy who's 6'5" trailing the candidate for president, they automatically assume that you're Secret Service.

Many times I'm like, no, it's like the other Clint Eastwood-looking guy next to me that's actually Secret Service.

But it's a personal aide. You're the guy who's just trying to make sure the train's running on time, he's got what he needs in order for him to go out and be the best candidate or president or whatever you may have it.

KEILAR: So he needs a mint, you have a mint. He needs his speech, you have his speech. I mean, it's everything, right? Are you thinking of every last little thing if you're the body man?

LOVE: Sometimes it's just something small like a mint or hand sanitizer and sometimes it's the teleprompter's not working or, you know, you never know.

KEILAR: Or you could be moving him along, like if he has to move along to the next thing, right?

LOVE: No, you can't move that guy alone. He's like a hard guy to move along.

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When you -- since this is about the media, like tonight, you get to be a fly on the wall, you have been a fly on the wall with him.

What is his media diet?

Does he actually watch, like the political news coverage of him?

Like does he read the clips?

Is he watching?

(CROSSTALK)

LOVE: He's on CNN all the time.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That is not true.

LOVE: All the time.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Four hours of "THE SITUATION ROOM."

(CROSSTALK) KEILAR: There's only two, Jon Favreau.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Seriously, though, does he actually watch this stuff, or is he watching SportsCenter?

LOVE: Like anyone who's a good student of their job, they've got to be aware of what everyone's saying. So I think you got to take in all of the stuff that's out there, but you don't digest it.

HARLOW: Hey, Reggie, it's Poppy Harlow in New York.

LOVE: Hey, Poppy.

HARLOW: Hey, joining the party from afar. I want you to look at these videos, if you can see them hopefully and also our viewers, because we know you're pretty good at shooting hoops and we know the president likes to shoot hoops. We know you played together.

So here's the first video released by the White House. All right?

All right, like...

LOOVE: I better be not getting my shot blocked.

HARLOW: Shocking, nothing but net over and over again. So he makes every shot. And the -- there he makes another.

But Reggie, here's the video where he's open to the press.

KEILAR: We don't actually have the video, Poppy.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sounds awesome.

KEILAR: So we need an accurate description of it.

HARLOW: This next video, he made two of 22 when it wasn't edited by the White House. So how good actually, A, on a funny note, was the president at basketball and B, how many times did videos like this that you released get edited to make everything look kind of perfect?

LOVE: Oh, man, come on, there's no fooling the media. So one, I think the president is a very good basketball player. He probably can't keep up with LeBron James, but I'm pretty sure he can out- compete all the guys at CNN.

But I will say that that was a pretty -- that Easter egg roll shooting performance was tough. He's had some tough performances, some bowling outings that weren't too great.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He made a joke about the Easter egg thing at one of these dinners, he said I have two out of 22 shots, and that was tough. And then the people at NBC said, what's your secret?

(LAUGHTER) KEILAR: That is good. OK, so you guys worked together for years. It must be nice to kind of get back together here but also you have the dirt here on Reggie. So why don't you pose --

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Don't put that on me.

KEILAR: No, no, mutually assured destruction.

LOVE: I will tell you, Jon was the nicest guy to me when I moved to D.C. in 2006. I didn't know anybody. An I was just a staff assistant. And Jon was open arms, open heart, showed me around the city. And I'm glad he's back. I'm sad he moved to the West Coast.

JON FAVREAU, WRITER: It's fun to be back though.

KEILAR: And give us a sense of, I know, speaking of basketball, you actually had a terrible basketball injury before one of these dinners once?

LOVE: I did. Actually I got 12 stitches from a basketball game the night before the second Correspondents' Dinner -- no, first Correspondents' Dinner that he was at. And it was from my brother. My brother's forehead literally hit me in the chin and split it

[21:55:00] wide open and I think that night I bled all onto my tuxedo.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Was the president like, get it together, man?

LOVE: Well, no. He actually it's better you than me.

(LAUGHTER)

KEILAR: Now he plays golf and not as much basketball, that's true.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No stitches in golf, that I've heard of.

HARLOW: Playing it safe.

KEILAR: Better watch out, it's possible, Poppy.

HARLOW: Playing it safe, Reggie Love, thank you for joining us.

Guys, we'll get a quick break in here, because we are waiting for the president to speak. When he does, we want to bring it to you all live right here on CNN. Our special coverage of the White House Correspondents' Dinner continues after a quick break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HARLOW: All right. They call it the Nerd Prom. It is the Oscars of Washington. You see it is all taking place right now. The annual White House Correspondents' Dinner , thousands of people packed in the room at the Washington Hilton, waiting to hear from the president and from "SNL" superstar Cecily Strong. Let's go down to the red carpet. My friends Brianna Keilar, Peter Hamby there, also joined by Jon Favreau, who was the top speechwriter for the president.

And Jon, I know this is a fun night, a light night. But I do want to ask you a more serious question on this front.

In terms of the control that this administration has had, really over the message because of their use of social media, so much has been put out on social media, right, the BuzzFeed video we just saw the president shooting hoops, making every one.

Another video put out by the White House.

[22:20:00] And it's angered a lot of White House correspondents who feel like they haven't gotten their questions answered.

How do you think that the administration has walked that line, now that you're not part of it anymore?