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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL
From the Red Carpet of the White House Correspondents Dinner. Aired 9-10p ET
Aired April 30, 2016 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[21:00:01] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: I'm John Berman. The Annual White House Correspondents' Dinner is underway. They are eating, folks. Eating right now inside that room behind us. Once they finish eating, the President gets his chance to do his last stand-up comedy routine before that glittering audience of Washington and Hollywood stars.
It is a fundraiser for journalism scholarships, and a chance to recognize excellence in reporting. But it's also about people- watching. People in that room watching each other, us watching them watching each other. Let's take a look at some of the best moments from the red carpet.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: What do you think the party will look like if Donald Trump wins?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, we're going to ditch (ph).
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, exactly.
BERMAN: Do you think President Obama tonight will be tough on Donald Trump again? Or do you think he's learned his lesson?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Next year, Donald will be delivering the laughs and the punchlines.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: While I don't back his philosophy or his thoughts, his governing style, his presence, his comportment, his hairstyle, there's nothing I really agree with him on. But I'm grateful that he was in the race. I really am. Because he got people engaged.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The man's got the greatest sense of humor in the world. Believe me, he'd be doing the exact same thing. And we'll certainly be bonding (ph), we'll (ph) be doing this next year. Maybe we will be here next year.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, I'm a good time. Maybe he'll give me some more material I can recycle with my father when we're together alone.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How are you holding up under the stress of Donald Trump?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm holding good. Do I look like I'm holding up? I'm holding up perfect, of course (ph).
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: As we wait for the President to deliver his speech, we've assembled an amazing lineup of experts to talk Politics, History, Fashion, Comedy, and more. You know, we haven't talked much fashion, I have to say that. Maybe we'll pick up the best room, best dresses, best tuxes, best everything. And Mister Larry Wilmore right now. Larry Wilmore went for the necktie.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Michelle Obama, she looks amazing. Every year she looks amazing. Every event, State of the Union, the Correspondents' Dinner she looks amazing. But tonight, her outfit was especially ravishing.
BERMAN: And Larry Wilmore talking to Major Garrett, also of FOX News. Oh, there's Jake Tapper, CNN's Chief Washington Correspondent, Host of State of the Union. He has went for the bowtie. Larry Wilmore went for the necktie, Jake Tapper went for the bowtie. And amazingly, unusually for Jake, no food on his clean, white shirt.
All right. We are talking about expectations for the evening. This is the final White House Correspondents' Dinner for President Obama. I think the bar is high. Mostly because we've been on T.V. for two hours talking about how he's going to be funny. And he's got to meet that. And if he doesn't meet it, people will say he wasn't funny. But history, right? His last dinner, he wants to do it for posterity, Brad (ph).
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Absolutely. I mean, I will say this about the President. And this sounds like I work for him, because I did. But he brings his A-game, right? I mean, Steph Curry, Michael Jordan- esque levels of bringing the A-game. I think he's going to be great. I think it's going to be, you know, this is a little bit of a victory lap. This is a pretty incredible, consequential presidency. You may disagree on the direction the country's going. But by and large, this President's done so much in eight years. The country's done so much in eight years. So it's going to be a lot of fun.
BERMAN: Steny Hoyer right there, the House minority whip (ph), right there. He was eating, he was invited. Even the minority in the Congress gets an invitation to this event. It's that equal opportunity. Marc Lamont Hill, Larry Wilmore talked -- he is the host. He is delivering the comedy routine after the President. Larry Wilmore told me he is going to -- well, the President has released the Blacken.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And he is going to point out how black the President has become. There's going to be a lot of race humor, lots of jabs. Not just at the President, but the other field, the Republican field. It's going to be really interesting to watch Larry Wilmore do this. He had to fill in for Colbert. He filled very big shoes.
Now he's filling in for Colbert's shoes at the Correspondents' Dinner. A few years ago he gave a great performance, I think he's going to want to outstrip that one. He just might do it. This is his comfort zone. He's doing a great job at late night, but he's even better in settings like this.
BERMAN: It'll be interesting to see what Larry does. You know, he does do comedy routines, he does do stand-up. But he's also just a man who's worked in comedy for a long time. I'm very, very excited to see his routine.
One of the things that Presidents have to do, that comedians don't -- former Mayor, Michael Bloomberg, of New York, right there. He's working the crowd, he's talking to people. He is not running for President this time around, despite spending a lot of money polling, to see whether he should run for President.
People who are President, one of the things they have to do in this situation is gauge if jokes they're going to tell -- if they are appropriate or not. And sometimes what's going on in the world dictates whether they're appropriate or not. David Axelrod talked to CNN. He explained how President Obama once had to remove one of his jokes. Let's listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAVID AXELROD, FORMER SENIOR ADVISOR TO THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I was actually in the White House the day of the dinner in 2011. I had left the staff, but I came back to work on jokes. We were going through jokes with the President, including one about Tim Pawlenty, who was running for President.
And the joke was, "poor Tim Pawlenty, he had such promise, but for that unfortunate middle name, Bin Laden." And it was really a play on the President's middle name, Hussein. But the President got to that joke and he said, "ah, Bin Laden, Bin Laden." He said, "that's so yesterday. Let's take that out."
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: Tim Pawlenty, he seems all-American, but if you heard his real middle name -- Tim Hosni Pawlenty -- what a shame.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AXELROD: And then we found out the day after, that he had already ordered the raid that would end Bin Laden's life. That will always loom in my mind as one of the most memorable moments that I've spent with him.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: Very interesting. Good reason to take out the Bin Laden joke, if you're in the middle of a raid right now, to kill Osama Bin Laden. Blux Texan (ph), you know it's a different time right now. Is there any subject you think that's off-limits to the President tonight?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, I think there are some areas where you won't see jokes. I think that given though, some of the obvious areas that we can see. We're talking, we're in the midst of a very -- to call it a colorful primary would be to do it, I think, not enough. We do not be really giving it a fair description. And so I think that there's so much from the the romet (ph) that you will probably get nowhere near some of the topics that -- I mean I could rattle off, as anyone could, that would be things you wouldn't want to make jokes about.
I think that this is a target-rich environment in the best kind of way. I also think that you have a unique circumstance with a President who is gifted at presentation -- this is coming from somebody who doesn't support his policies or his policies, but he is gifted at presentation. A President who's speaking to a room full of people who -- both on the Hollywood side, and on the media side -- are very much, generally speaking, in favor of him. I mean, he's made jokes about it, himself, that they all voted for him.
So you have a very favorable crowd, you have a guy with a lot of skills. Whoever is the President the next go-round -- and he's also had a few, had a few times at the plate with this -- whoever's the President the next go-round, it's going to be quite different. I have to say. Especially if you see Hillary Clinton, who may have a lot of support from the same Washington Press Corps. But I don't think anybody would ever say that he -- that she has quite the same gifts of presentation as Barack Obama.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Few do.
BERMAN: Joe Biden. Vice President, Joe Biden right now talking, I believe that's Jason Rezaian right there. The back of Jason Rezaian. The Washington Post reporter who was in prison in Iran for so long, who is now free. Now at this dinner. He will be delivering -- handing out some awards tonight. I think this is a great picture to see, It's a reminder, Kate, I think, of what this dinner is supposed to be about. Which is journalism. You know, it's scholarships for funding for journalism. A celebration of what's important about our business. And Jason Rezaian represents that.
KATE: Yes, and they're giving out -- I think it's $100,000 worth of scholarships to aspiring journalists. And I think really, the point of this whole dinner is to support the White House Correspondents' Association. Which does great work for access, you know, Carol Lee, the President, makes sure that there are journalists in the room. Photos, phrase (ph) of the President in the Oval Office.
And for all those kind of boring, kind of -- people would think it's boring -- details of the job. Which is really about granting credentials to people, and making sure that there are always eyes on the President. They especially want him to -- any President -- to make statements when they're -- for instance, when President Obama was in Saudi Arabia he took questions. Even though the other leaders didn't. And this is something they're always pushing for, more questions, more access, and it's a very important role they play.
BERMAN: Kenny Mackinay (ph), you were a Donald Trump supporter. Donald Trump right now leading the Republican field for President right now. People wondering what a Trump White House might look like, if such a thing comes to pass. How he would treat the press. It's really interesting because he has a love/hate relationship with the press, right? He'll ask the cameras to turn around during an event. He'll sometimes have the audience boo the press that's there.
Yet, here's a guy who rarely turns down an interview request. Access to him, in some ways, is greater than it's been with any presidential candidate I've seen. At the same time, I think there's a real worry among some of the press corps, particularly the White House press corps, that he may revoke credentials. Or he may try to control access. Which way do you think it will go?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Definitely not trying to control access. Because as you pointed out, he has given more access to various mediums, than any presidential candidate in history. He's going on every Sunday talk show, he gave an hour to MSNBC's Chris Matthews, hardly a friend of the Conservative cloud (ph). This is someone who has gone into enemy territory, and done so frequently, and done so often.
So I think that really what Donald Trump has done is what this White House Correspondents' Dinner is all about. It started in 1914 when there were rumors that there was going to be a Congressional Committee that screened out some journalists and brought in others. And I think Donald Trump has really given access to a lot of people and embodied what this is about.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Will he do phoners if he's President?
BERMAN: Especially so, if he is elected President, he may have to lay off the Twitter. Which will be interesting to see. It will be interesting to see if it's possible for him to do so, by that, I mean.
All right, throughout the evening, we are asking you, in the audience, to weigh in on several subjects. Go to CNN.com/vote, and tell us which topics the President should joke about. 2016, Congress, the Republican Party, his birthplace, or cable news. Do not vote for cable news. Keep watching, you're seeing results live, real time across the bottom of the screen.
DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: In the bizarre intersection of politics and Hollywood that is the White House Correspondents' Dinner, one year, I recall being introduced to Hollywood superstar, Kim Kardashian, by a colleague of mine. And when she heard my last name, Chalion, she heard it as an Armenian name. She instantly began questioning me and talking to me about the Armenian genocide. And it became very clear, right away, that this was an issue she knew much more about than I did, and that she was really passionate about. I wasn't able to keep up my end of the conversation, but it was the most unexpected conversation I've ever had. A. It was with Kim Kardashian. B. It was about this policy matter, it was one of those great White House Correspondents' Dinner moments.
BERMAN: That's so funny because Kim Kardashian has a completely different version of that story, that she tells about meeting David Chalian, CNN's Political Director, we'll get to that in a little bit.
So part of the fun part of The White House Correspondents' Dinner is dressing up for walking down the red carpet. It's something that Hollywood stars are used to doing, but reporters, politicians? Not so much. CNN's Jeff Zeleny, Michelle Kosinski, they are on the red carpet up with Derek Blasberg, Host of CNN Style. Michelle?
MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hello, yes. I thought maybe you were going to cut to a reel of all of us reporters tripping on the red carpet or something like that. All right, Derek is here. You're kind of a maven of all things style, and I have to tell you, he is wearing no socks tonight. Is that a statement?
DEREK BLASBERG, CNN HOST, "CNN STYLE": I'm going bare-ankled.
KOSINSKI: Is it a political statement of any kind?
BLASBERG: It's not a political statement. I just like to show a lot of ankle cleavage, here in D.C.
KOSINSKI: All right look at it. I think you're setting the pace, we should probably know about this. But you're going to tell us about -- I mean, would you say that The Correspondents' Dinner is one of those places where style is noticed and repeated? Or is this kind of not even close to say, you know ...
BLASBERG: I think in Washington, D.C., The White House Correspondents' Dinner is the sort of red carpet event of the year. This is when you get a lot of Hollywood celebrities you've got out of New York, celebrities, you've got models, actors, I've got Karlie Kloss, Christy Turlington at my table. I'm not far from Emma Watson. I walked in with Kendall Jenner. So you get to see a lot of bold- faced names.
KOSINSKI: And everyone wants to know who the Supreme Court Justices are wearing, generally, right?
BLASBERG: Yes, yes.
KOSINSKI: OK but you mentioned Kendall Jenner. And I've heard a lot of people say tonight, they want to meet her. So what kind of ...
BLASBERG: It's funny you bring up Kendall Jenner and the Supreme Court Justices. Because a lot of people are wearing black. Kendall tonight wore, I saw her on the way in, this is a vintage dress that she picked out.
KOSINSKI: Yes, she's kind of going with the Supreme Court look there.
BLASBERG: I told her, don't turn your back on me. She's in a bare- back, vintage black dress. I said the same thing to Barack Obama - don't turn your back on me. Christy Turlington also was in black. She's wearing a Marc Jacobs dress.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Speaking of Christy Turlington, yes, let's take a look at that right here. Explain this to us, so she's wearing ...
BLASBERG: Christy Turlington, she's at my table. She sort of explained that at the last minute, she realized she didn't have a dress for The White House Correspondents' Dinner, so she called her friend Marc -- it pays to have friends who own fashion labels -- and pulled this amazing, sort of off-the-shoulder, black ...
KOSINSKI: That is elegant.
BLASBERG: ... runged chic dress with a built-in new chip -- new card brasier.
KOSINSKI: And I mean, people do try to go conservative for this, right? They don't want to kind of ...
BLASBERG: To be honest, looking at the red carpet, I think a lot of what we're seeing is sort of high-fashion people trying to maintain a lot of American class in D.C. And you're in the presence of the President. So you're seeing a lot of black, you're seeing a lot of clean, you're seeing a lot of simple. Emma Watson, the star of the Harry Potter franchise, she did a little bit of color. She wore a floral dress. But my favorite ...
KOSINSKI: I like that.
BLASBERG: ... my favorite dress of the night, was actually a tuxedo. Jared Leto wore a Gucci suit with a hot pink bowtie. So --
ZELENY: So what do you think about that? Is that appropriate at a black-tie dinner like this?
KOSINSKI: I like it.
ZELENY: And here he is, we can see a look of him right there. I mean he looks terrific ...
KOSINSKI: I think he can do whatever he wants.
ZELENY: ... It doesn't match the pocket square, but what do you think?
BLASBERG: Well I think he's done a lot with Gucci, the Italian fashion label, lately. And I think a lot of his red carpet looks have been slightly daring.
KOSINSKI: Right. I thought he was a little more daring.
BLASBERG: Not too avant garde, but a pink bowtie at a black-tie gala is unexpected. But you know what? It's Jared Leto, he can pull it off.
KOSINSKI: Yes, I think it looks great. It's something a little different. And what about Aretha Franklin, I know she's here tonight. We spotted her in the crowd (ph).
BLASBERG: Aretha Franklin can wear whatever Aretha Franklin wants.
KOSINSKI: There are lots of people like that.
BLASBERG: And that's what I sort of love about The White House Correspondents' Dinner. You can sort of sit here at the red carpet and you see everyone walking, you never know who's going to turn the corner. One minute it's Kendall Jenner ...
KOSINSKI: Oh, she looks amazing.
BLASBERG: One minute it's a real housewife. And then you've got Aretha Franklin. I sort of -- I mean she looks -- that's a diva, right?
ZELENY: It is true.
KOSINSKI: Yes, absolutely.
BLASBERG: Draped, champagne colored, stargate fabric.
KOSINSKI: I think that's so elegant and ... I find that here, people do try to, they try to do elegant because it's Washington. You don't see a lot of cut-outs, or showing a lot of skin. Although there have been exceptions over the years.
ZELENY: I mean, I've seen more skin tonight, you always see this tonight at this dinner, than any other time in Washington, of course. But ...
KOSINSKI: It's for -- you have to say it's for Washington.
ZELENY: For Washington, no doubt about it. No doubt about it. But --
KOSINSKI: You know, I mean, for Washington, showing a lot of skin is like ...
KOSINSKI: ... above the elbow. Or --
ZELENY: Let's go to Helen Mirren though. I think we have some pictures of her, as well. I think you were seeing her earlier.
BLASBERG: Helen Mirren, I think this is a tribute to Purple Rain.
KOSINSKI: Yes, definitely.
BLASBERG: Prince, as we all know, passed away recently ...
KOSINSKI: She has the symbol.
BLASBERG: ... and she has a symbol. I at first thought it was a nicotine patch, but it's not. It's the Prince symbol, sort of affixed to her chest, there. And she has ...
ZELENY: And it works, right? I mean, she's beautiful.
KOSINSKI: And matching her purple dress.
BLASBERG: Purple rain, purple lace, purple dress. That's Helen Mirren, I think she's glamorous.
KOSINSKI: Yes, and that is kind of a statement, obviously, that she's making. But do you find that people here try to make political statements on the red carpet.
BLASBERG: I remember during the writers' strike, Helen Mirren also put on a pen-shaped broach when she went down the red carpet at one of the award shows. So I think she's used to making sort of a political statement. But especially in a place like Washington, D.C., I think you're indulged to make political statements.
KOSINSKI: And a name we maybe have heard recently, Anna Paquin, was here. Who has been sort of, you know ...
BLASBERG: Maybe she got -- maybe she's been here before. I don't know what she wore. What did -- oh -- This is Karlie Kloss that we're looking at now.
BLASBERG: Karlie Kloss is one of the biggest models here, in New York.
KOSINSKI: Very elegant.
BLASBERG: She's wearing Derek Lam. I like the -- it's actually sort of a nude color into a white phantom (ph) ...
KOSINSKI: You know there are always supermodels here, I find every year. And they always go extremely elegant. I mean they -- obviously they can do it. But I think that's a good example. It --
BLASBERG: I think it's a big deal for these girls in New York fashion to come here to D.C. and sit in front of the President. And also, not for nothing. We have one of those glamorous first ladies in sort of recent practical (ph) history.
KOSINSKI: Right, yes.
BLASBERG: So you want to turn on your A-game.
KOSINSKI: Yes, and it's been something to see kind of the evolution over the years, as well.
BLASBERG: Yes. ZELENY: Have you seen anything that did not work tonight?
BLASBERG: Not yet.
KOSINSKI: Yes, what about the "don'ts," isn't that what everybody wants to --
BLASBERG: The night is, the night is still a little -- everyone I've seen has actually been quite classic. And none of it's really conservative, but pretty on-point.
KOSINSKI: Yes, I just hope you don't get in trouble for the lack of stocks. But we'll talk about that later.
BLASBERG: We can, we can battle this out on camera, Michelle.
KOSINSKI: All right, John. That's the latest here from just outside the red carpet.
BERMAN: I don't think anything will ever match Jeff Zeleny talking about skin. So hopefully we can come back to you ...
KOSINSKI: You should see the pictures he's taken tonight.
BERMAN: Let's actually, before we think she's good, can we look at Michelle Obama? We want to see Michelle Obama. Michelle Obama's dress, right there, Derek, I don't know if you can hear me, or Jeff can ask you. Talk to me about what she's wearing because, you know, not one of the things I know about; dresses.
BLASBERG: Well here, I'll take it from here. I think, as we all know, this is Michelle Obama's last White House Correspondents' Dinner as a First Lady, and I think she really knocked it out of the park. She went for gold, didn't she? She's wearing this sort of, beautiful champagne ...
KOSINSKI: Very sparkly.
BLASBERG: ... sequined.
KOSINSKI: And when you look at the first Correspondents' Dinner, it -- there is an evolution. She was so simple and conservative. Very, you know --
ZELENY: Also a different time, economically. I remember that first year in 2009, did not want to be seen as too lavish or whatnot (ph). You know what I mean?
BLASBERG: Now she's gone for the gold. Look at her, she looks beautiful.
KOSINSKI: And then kind of, midrange, four years in, she's -- she started changing up the hair, kind of a little more sparkle. Yes, she looks amazing tonight. And she always does something a little different each time. Different than her usual look.
ZELENY: And John, that's our fashion report from here. Back to you.
BERMAN: Well no actually, because I have Dered -- I don't get to ask these questions a lot. So, Derek, where are you on the tie in a tuxedo? Because you and Jeff are wearing a traditional necktie, yet the leader of the free world, Barack Obama, is wearing the traditional bowtie. Who's right?
BLASBERG: Well I think we -- Jeff and I ...
ZELENY: I think we're right, don't you think?
KOSINSKI: I think Wolf Blitzer is wearing a tie.
BLASBERG: Jeff and I wanted to give Barack a moment to shine this year. So we took it a notch down and let him ham it up. It's the least we could do.
KOSINSKI: And isn't ... isn't Wolf also wearing a tie? Did you see him? I think --
BLASBERG: Technically black-tie is not limited to only bowties.
KOSINSKI: Of course.
BLASBERG: So we're splitting ...
ZELENY: At least in America.
BLASBERG: We're being black-tie heroes here.
KOSINSKI: Maybe it's a CNN thing tonight. I mean, I had a tie on, a long tie. But then I decided to take it off.
BERMAN: Excellent. Well the definitive answer; if Wolf Blitzer does it, then it's OK. All right guys, thank you so much.
BERMAN: And Derek's show, by the way, we should tell you, you can see it on CNNi, you do not want to miss it. I learned so much right now, I can't wait to check it out and learn more.
All right, coming up. The sometimes difficult relationship between Presidents and the news media. This is how Lyndon Johnson once described it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LYNDON JOHNSON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Despite all the friction however, I do admire and I do envy the press. I've always hankered to be a reporter, since I was a college editor.
I've always wanted to come up with one of those hard news leads like, "The mood at the White House this evening is one of cautious optimism." Or one like this, "The President fired the opening gun of his reelection campaign last night."
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: All right, this is the President's final White House Correspondents' Dinner. You're looking at live pictures from inside the hall right now. That is Whoopi Goldberg there taking pictures with people. This is, this is one of the pastimes of the White House Correspondents' Dinner. Everyone takes their picture with everyone else and shares them later on Twitter and beyond.
A lot of fun in that room this evening. We just did see them serving coffee. That's the latest from the meal update. Wolf Blitzer right there, as well. If they're serving coffee, it means that the speeches are about to begin soon. That is what we are hoping, at least. As I said, the President due to speak, hopefully in a few minutes.
[21:30:00] He's had a lot of targets in his time as president. Yes, he's taken on Donald Trump famously, but he's also taken on news, cable news, a lot. So on behalf of the cable news industry, Mr. President, we'd like to say. "You're welcome." Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRES. BARACK OBAMA, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Thomas Jefferson once said that if he had the choice between a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, he would not hesitate to choose the latter. And, clearly, Thomas Jefferson never had cable news to contend with.
The History Channel is not here. I guess they're embarrassed about the whole "Obama is a devil" thing. Of course, that never kept Fox News from showing up. They actually thought the comparison was not fair to Satan.
Some of my former advisors have switched over to the dark side. For example, David Axelrod now works for MSNBC, which is a nice change of pace since MSNBC used to work for David Axelrod.
I know CNN has taken some knocks lately, but the fact is I admire their commitment to cover all sides of the story, just in case one of them happens to be accurate.
MSNBC is here. They're a little overwhelmed. They've never seen an audience this big before.
I am happy to be here, even though I am a little jet-lagged from my trip to Malaysia. The lengths we have to go to, to get CNN coverage these days.
The fact is, I really do respect the press. I recognize that the press and I have different jobs to do. My job is to be president. Your job is to keep me humble. Frankly, I think I'm doing my job better. 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. (END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: All right, some of the president's best lines about cable news. Jokes at our expense but you know what? That's OK once a year.
All right. For more, let's now go back to the red carpet. Brian Stelter, host of CNN's "Reliable Sources" is there, with some special guest. Brian?
BRIAN STELTER, CNN HOST, RELIABLE SOURCES: Thank you so much, John. And Michelle Kosinski may rest in here with me and we were just talking about we expect even more barbs from President Obama tonight. Michelle, you think maybe President Obama saved his best for last?
KOSINSKI: Oh, absolutely. I mean, why wouldn't he? And he knows the expectation are high, and we were asking about is, on Friday in the briefing room, and the White House really didn't want to give -- away any surprises, as they put it. But the word is among people who are close to him that he's going to take this opportunity. He's going to kind of let loose.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And why would he not? Look at this campaign year that he has to play with. Obviously he had, you know, these tense moments in the past when Donald Trump was in the audience, right? But I think he has so much material to work with tonight. He's obviously got great guys writing jokes for him, and it will be really fun to see what he does in sort of his final punch-out.
STELTER: Yeah, humor tinged with truth. He does have an antagonistic relationship with cable news in particular. And so, I think that will come out in a few minutes.
This dinner some will criticize for being too cozy. This is about reporters and administration officials and others all hanging out together in the room. But the reality of this administration is that, access is very limited. In many ways this is the least transparent administration ever in terms of access by media to what's going on in this administration.
Michelle, give us an explanation of what that means day to day for White House correspondents?
KOSINSKI: It's completely controlled, and I think that's been the criticism. I've only covered this administration so it's hard for me to compare, but in speaking with colleagues who've covered multiple administrations. In fact, there was a survey that just came out in Politico. And among people who would have covered more than one administration, the vast majority of them said that this is the least open.
So It's kind of they give you what they want to give you. They'll be open and transparent with what they want to talk about, but it is tough to get something beyond that. Extremely controlled, although people who cover candidates who are running for office say that really, everything is like that.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I mean, it's such an interesting comparison. It's why this dinner is such an interesting event each year, because the Obama White House is so insular. There hasn't been that joking kind of fun relationship that, for example, (W) had with the press. I mean, all his nicknames.
And, I mean, obviously none of the presidential candidates out there this year are doing the same kind of thing that John McCain did on his bus. And they're all riding around in a half circle with him for ...
STELTER: What we call straight talk his press.
[21:34:58] UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Right, until the very end. But that age has passed. So it's so fascinating to watch those dynamics here.
KOSINSKI: The message is always very controlled. I think that is sort of how things are now. Nobody wants to have that gaffe that gets out, gut of the open mic, which still happens. Nobody learns from that.
Nobody ever wants to get too close or let anything fly before it's time, but sometimes I think is it were more open and let's talk behind the scenes about things more, then it would just be a better relationship in general.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And they also, you know, they have Youtube and Twitter and everything now. I mean, the Obama White House ...
STELTER: Yes, that they changed. Yes, you think it's about (inaudible) versus now.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Exactly. Just a couple years ago, the Obama White House basically has created their own channel. I mean, what do you need reporters for when you want to get that kind of singular message out that's not antagonistic ...
STELTER: ... the next level, why have reporters when you have Twitter.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. Exactly ...
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Right.
STELTER: We'll see the president being friendly on the podium tonight, but the reality is he's not always that friendly with the press.
KOSINSKI: I mean, I don't know him. I've covered President Obama for two yes. I don't know that he knows who I am. I've never had a conversation with him. I've never had an opportunity to have more than a few words with him and that's not, you know, the kind of relationship that people have said they've had with others.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's very different than past presidents.
BERMAN: That's the great way to (inaudible) perspective as we see him up there tonight.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And, by the way, he's Snapchatting for the very first time tonight. Yeah, I heard that from Snapchat.
STELTER: Well, John, we can keep an eye on Snapchat, see what he ...
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It will be his first snap or his first Snapchat.
STELTER: John, back to you.
BERMAN: Brian Stelter, thank you so much. I know the kids are using the Snapchat. I have the app. I get this screen. I don't really know what to do with it, but if the president can figure it out, it gives us all hope.
Brian Stelter, thank you so much.
You're looking at your TV screens, right there at the bottom. We asked you all what should the president should joke about tonight? And these are the results.
You can see that 65 percent of you out there wanted a joke the 2016 race. I don't think there will be enough material. In second place was the Republican Party, third place cable news, Congress and his birthplace. Brad, what do you think, the 2016 rice? Ample material?
BRAD: A lot of material. And I think on both sides. I think, our Republican friends on the other side here looking for jokes at Hillary and Bernie expense. We know Senator Sanders will be in the room. And I'm going to in lane, I think they'll be couple of Bernie jokes as well, why not? He's fired up millions of young people to get involved in politics. Obama knows that many of them will be walking tonight. So I think there will be some equal and bipartisan ribbing, I guess you should say ...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I would be, there will be some Biden and Warren jokes as well by the way.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yeah. Yeah.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think Warren jokes will there as well. You know, just in case, you know ...
BERMAN: So we did just see the Biden cam. That is the Biden cam we've been watching all evening following Joe Biden trying to shake everyone's hand in the entire room. We think he's getting close. And then, you can see Larry Wilmore up on the stage right now, the most nervous man in America.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's focused.
B. OBAMA: Because the president is about to give his speech, then Larry Wilmore got to follow him, and all that poor man wants to do is look at his notes.
Much more to cover, we are getting much closer to the president's speech. But next, the other guy, we were just talking about, who will be telling jokes, Larry Wilmore. What does he have to do? How hard is his job tonight? We'll get his thoughts when our coverage continues.
[21:21:00] SETH MEYERS, COMEDIAN: So it's not a strong field, and who knows if they can beat you in 2012. But I'll tell you who could definitely beat you, Mr. President, 2008 Barack Obama. You would have loved him.
So charismatic, so charming, was he a little too idealistic? Maybe, but you would have loved him.
BERMAN: Seth Meyers in 2011, one of the most famous White Correspondents' Dinners ever for a variety of reasons.
Welcome back to CNN's live coverage of this year's White House Correspondents' Dinner. There is a fundraiser tonight for journalism scholarships which should being announced right now.
President Obama speaks soon, but he will not be the only one telling jokes, tonight. The correspondents' dinner features comedian Larry Wilmore, the host of "The Nightly Show" on Comedy Central. He has got a big, big job tonight. So how do you make jokes about the president when he's sitting right next to you?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LARRY WILMORE, COMEDIAN, THE NIGHTLY SHOW HOST: This is true. They're replacing Andrew Jackson who was a notoriously pro-slavery president as well as the most blood-thirsty racist in the Jackson Five.
BERMAN: Larry Wilmore knows that it's way easier to win "The Nightly Show" crowd than what could be the fearest, most (tickle) audience in showbiz/Washington.
WILMORE: It is the most narcissistic room ever, journalists and politicians in Hollywood, and the president. There you go. That room could explode just from the narcissism alone.
BERMAN: But when it comes to the White House Correspondents' Dinner, the explosion is worth the risk.
WILMORE: It was something that I really wanted to do, and if I did it, I really did want to do it for this president. And I thought the time light have expired for that. So to sneak in there at the end is very cool. (Off-Mic)
BERMAN: The last such dinner for the first black president starring an African-American comic.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let's be clear about what black face actually is.
BERMAN: Wilmore knows it is historic.
You said you like the president. You say though, you didn't support him because of his policies ...
WLMORR: Correct. You supported him because he was black ...
WILMORE: Because of the policy that he is black.
BERMAN: How has he delivered on that?
WILMORE: I think he's been excellent. I think he's actually increased the policy of blackness over the past year and a half, I would say. He has released the black in him.
BERMAN: A classic answer from the 54-year-old comic, both deliberately funny and deadly serious.
WILMORE: If it feels like "The Nightly Show" is getting repetitive, I totally agree. I mean, at this point, my writing staff just has to fill in the names. They barely even show up to work anymore.
BERMAN: 15 months after they took over the time slot on Comedy Central taken over by Stephen Colbert ...
COLBERT: How is it going?
BERMAN: The New York Times says, Wilmore is less preoccupied with humor that anyone else who's ever occupied (inaudible) new chair.
[21:45:00] WILMORE: Sometimes, I'm not afraid to have to provide some glibness in a moment and to tell a story and find humanity in the story and get comedy out of that. Sometimes it works other way around.
It appears that Officer Slager immediately begun the cover up of Walter Scott's death.
When you're covering a story about a man getting shot in the back by a cop as he's trying to run away, there's nothing funny in that, how do you cover something like that? How many of these murders aren't caught on camera?
People got the dependent ...
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, people have said about that and then you say like ...
BERMAN: He applies that same sometimes frank, sometimes funny take to his views about the election, which are admittedly liberal.
Will you say your show trends more pro-democratic policies than politicians?
WILMORE: I would say probably, especially with the issues that we tend to take on because a lot of them are culture issues and that kind of thing.
BERMAN: I want to throw out a candidate's name. There are five left and I want to know if you have first impression or word that you associate with them.
BERMAN: When I say Bernie Sanders you say ...
WILMORE: I say scrappy.
BERMAN: If I say Ted Cruz, you say ...
WILMORE: I say creepy.
BERMAN: I say Hillary Clinton.
WILMORE: Hillary Clinton? I say, uh, trying to find it.
BERMAN: John Kasich?
WILMORE: John Kasich, I would say -- oh, man. This is the problem with John Kasich right now. A lot of people are struggling ...
BERMAN: That is the problem. That is the problem. Donald Trump.
WILMORE: Donald Trump, unbelievable in every way.
Black people supporting Trump?
BERMAN: But when it comes to the correspondents' dinner, Wilmore is promising all jokes delivered with the skill and experience of more than 20 years acting, writing and producing on shows ranging from "In Living Color" to "The Bernie Mac Show" ...
WILMORE: I have a job.
BERMAN: Restoring at senior black correspondent on "The Daily Show."
STEWART: Larry, what do you say about those people?
WILMORE: I don't know, Jon, I would say they should probably -- sometimes.
BERMAN: And this weekend, all targets are fair game.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Take a look at the whole Obama-Saudi Arabia thing, too.
BERMAN: ... including or especially, the president.
BERMAN: No free pass because this is his last dinner.
WILMORE: I have to keep it at 100, common man. I mean, and this is the last dinner, what are they going to do? None in the fantasy of the IRS after me, very little time, maybe I shouldn't say that on TV. But that's part of the fun, but it' all good-natured fun.
BERMAN: The hardest part he says, having to follow the president on stage, a president now experienced at telling jokes.
OBAMA: And Donald Trump is here, still.
BERMAN: Do you think you'll laugh at him or are you trying not to laugh?
WILMORE: Oh, I'll completely laugh.
BERMAN: You don't want to lower expectations?
WILMORE: No, no, no no. I'll be a great audience for president helped me not to be too nervous. You know, get rid of that air. "That's funny, Mr. President."
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: All right, Larry Wilmore speaks in a minute. But right now, you're about to hear from a really, really important man at this dinner, Jason Rezaian, Washington Post reporter who was in prison in Iran for well over a year. He's presenting some awards which you can see how excited everyone is to see him here tonight. Let's listen to him.
JASON REZAIAN, WASHINGTON POST REPORTER: This is a big intimidating room but I can say it beats solitary confinement.
I want to go off script just a moment and thank all my colleagues in the journalistic community. You guys have been incredible throughout my ordeal supporting me and my family, and it really means a lot to me. So thank you very much.
And I just want to say that my brother and my wife are here tonight, and I love them both very much. And my mom is watching on TV, I think, and I love you, mom.
The White House Correspondents' Association founded in 1914 and dedicated to fulsome coverage of the president of the United States is proud to announce the winners of its annual awards for distinguished print and broadcast journalism. The winner of the Merriman Smith Award for outstanding White House coverage under deadline pressure is Matt Viser of the Boston Globe.
BERMAN: All right. You're watching the White House Correspondents' Dinner live coverage , Jason Rezaian of the Washington Post who was in prison in Iran right now presenting awards for journalism. And that's Matt Viser of the Boston Globe, a terrific reporter who just got an award right there.
We are waiting to hear from President Obama, waiting to hear from Larry Wilmore.
[21:50:00] Do not go away. Our live coverage continues right after this.
BERMAN: Oh, you're looking at live pictures from inside the White House Correspondents' Dinner. There's Vice President Joe Biden right there having a good laugh. He actually just got a standing ovation as he was introduced to the crowd. Everyone in the room rose up to applaud the vice president, his final correspondents' dinner as a vice president.
As we've been saying, it his final Correspondents' Dinner for President Obama as well. So one way or another, history will be made tonight. The awards portion of the dinner is under way right now, the entertainment part of the program including President Obama that will start shortly.
While we wait, we want to go to Jeff Zeleny, he's on the red carpet. He's with some very, very accomplished speech writers. Jeff, take it away.
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: John, the words behind the president are written by two of these men beside me. At least they were Jon Favreau and David Litt.
They were both speech writers for President Obama. They've been involved in tonight's speech. So really quickly, a preview, are we going to hear him talk about Donald Trump tonight, Jon?
JON FAVREAU, FORMER DIRECTOR OF SPEECHWRITING FOR PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: I think yeah. I think there will be some Trump in tonight's speech, just a touch.
ZELENY: David, was there ever any discussion of - is anything too far with Trump or is there no boundary?
DAVID LITT, SPECIAL ASSISTANT TO THE PRESIDENT AND SENIOR PRESIDENTIAL SPEECHWRITER: Well, I think there is a discussion of is this guy getting too much attention? That I think is a nationwide discussion. But I think, you know, you saw in 2011 there were not a lot of holds bar.
[21:55:00] ZELENY: So walk me through previous speeches. What is it like to work to these of these speeches with President Obama? Is he contributing as much as you all are? He can be a funny guy but he can also be a very serious guy.
LITT: He is very funny. He likes to poke fun at the absurdity of politics because he thinks politics can be a bit absurd. So that sort of the style of joke that he likes. So when we assemble all the jokes at the beginning we have a whole big team that's involved in it. And Tyler Lechtenberg is a speech writer, he ran the process this year and we just collected a lot of jokes and he picks his favorite after that.
ZELENY: David, tell me a favorite moment from you working with the president, one of the speeches from last year or the year before.
LITT: Well, so a couple years ago he told this joke, Republicans all agree they have to do a better job of reaching out to minorities. Call me self-centered but I could think of one minority they could start with.
And he read that and he was like, "Oh, I like that". May do a little way of their, you know, and I think at the dinner, he ad lib that I think he said that they can think of me as trial run. So when he likes something like that he will make it,, you know, make it his own in that way. And have fun with it.
ZELENY: Great. Guys, thank you very much. We'll see and hear from the president and see if it's funny again this year. John, back to you.
BERMAN: OK. Jeff Zeleny, thank you so much. Very interesting to hear from those guys who have been on the inside while the president has been writing he's speeches. Again, we have heard from many people the president, he's got some Trump stuff planned. So stay tuned for that.
To keep up with all things political, the good, the bad, the otherwise, just download the CNN Politics App. This is new and it is awesome. It is available in the iTunes store.
The president, Larry Wilmore, the White House Correspondents' Dinner, the big stuff, it's coming up. We'll be right back.