really is the new
Here is the transcript of President Barack Obama‘s remarks at the
White House Correspondents Dinner, Saturday, May 3, as released by
the White House.
10:21 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you so much,
everybody. Have a seat, have a
seat. Before I get started, can we get the new
presidential setup out here?
(Aides bring out two ferns.)
It was worked before. (Laughter and
applause.) That’s more like it.
It is great to be back. What a year,
huh? I usually start these dinners with a few
self-deprecating jokes. After my stellar 2013,
what could I possibly talk about?
I admit it — last year was rough.
Sheesh. (Laughter.) At one
point things got so bad, the 47 percent called Mitt Romney to
Of course, we rolled out healthcare.gov. That
could have gone better.
(Laughter.) In 2008 my slogan was, “Yes We
Can.” In 2013 my slogan was,
(Laughter.) On the plus side, they did turn the
launch of healthcare.gov into one of the year’s biggest
But rather than dwell on the past, I would like to pivot to this
dinner. Let’s welcome our headliner this evening,
Joel McHale. (Applause.) On
“Community,” Joel plays a preening, self-obsessed
narcissist. So this dinner must be a real change
of pace for you. (Laughter.)
I want to thank the White House Correspondents Association for
hosting us here tonight. 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 get CNN
coverage these days. (Laughter and
applause.) I think they’re still searching for
their table. (Laughter and applause.)
MSNBC is here. They’re a little
They’ve never seen an audience this big before.
But, look, everybody is trying to keep up with this incredibly
fast-changing media landscape. For example, I got
a lot of grief on cable news for promoting Obamacare to young
people on Between Two Ferns. But that’s what
young people like to watch. And to be fair, I am
not the first person on television between two potted
plants. (Laughter and applause.)
Sometimes I do feel disrespected by you
reporters. But that’s okay.
Seattle Seahawk cornerback Richard Sherman is here
tonight. (Applause.) And he
gave me some great tips on how to handle it. Jake
Tapper, don’t you ever talk about me like that!
(Laughter.) I’m the best President in the
What do you think, Richard? Was that
good? A little more feeling next time?
While we’re talking sports, just last month, a wonderful story — an
American won the Boston Marathon for first time in 30
years. (Applause.) Which was
inspiring and only fair, since a Kenyan has been president for the
last six. (Laughter and
applause.) Had to even things
We have some other athletes here tonight, including Olympic
snowboarding gold medalist Jamie Anderson is
here. We’re proud of her.
(Applause.) Incredibly talented young
lady. Michelle and I watched the Olympics — we
cannot believe what these folks do — death-defying feats — haven’t
seen somebody pull a “180” that fast since Rand Paul disinvited
that Nevada rancher from this dinner.
(Laughter.) As a general rule, things don’t like
end well if the sentence starts, “Let me tell you something I know
about the negro.” (Laughter.)
You don’t really need to hear the rest of it.
(Laughter and applause.) Just a tip for you —
don’t start your sentence that way.
Speaking of Rand Paul — (laughter) — Colorado legalized marijuana
this year, an interesting social experiment. I do
hope it doesn’t lead to a whole lot of paranoid people who think
that the federal government is out to get them and listening to
their phone calls. (Laughter.)
That would be a problem. (Laughter.)
And speaking of conservative heroes, the Koch brothers bought a
table here tonight. But as usual, they used a
shadowy right-wing organization as a front.
Hello, Fox News. (Laughter and applause.)
I’m just kidding. Let’s face it, Fox, you’ll miss
me when I’m gone. (Laughter.)
It will be harder to convince the American people that Hillary was
born in Kenya. (Laughter and applause.)
A lot of us really are concerned about the way big money is
influencing our politics. I remember when a Super
PAC was just me buying Marlboro 100s instead of
Of course, now that it’s 2014, Washington is obsessed on the
midterms. Folks are saying that with my sagging
poll numbers, my fellow Democrats don’t really want me campaigning
with them. And I don’t think that’s true —
although I did notice the other day that Sasha needed a speaker at
career day, and she invited Bill Clinton.
(Laughter.) I was a little hurt by
Both sides are doing whatever it takes to win the ruthless
game. Republicans — this is a true story —
Republicans actually brought in a group of consultants to teach
their candidates how to speak to women. This is
true. And I don’t know if it will work with
women, but I understand that America’s teenage boys are signing up
to run for the Senate in droves.
Anyway, while you guys focus on the horserace, I’m going to do what
I do — I’m going to be focused on everyday
Americans. Just yesterday, I read a heartbreaking
letter — you know I get letters from folks from around the country;
every day I get 10 that I read — this one got to
me. A Virginia man who’s been stuck in the same
part-time job for years; no respect from his boss; no chance to get
ahead. I really wish Eric Cantor would stop
writing me. (Laughter.) You can
just pick up the phone, Eric. (Laughter.)
And I’m feeling sorry — believe it or not — for the Speaker of the
House, as well. 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
But I have not given up the idea of working with Congress. In fact,
two weeks ago, Senator Ted Cruz and I, we got a bill done
together. And I have to say, the signing ceremony
was something special. We’ve got a picture of it
I think. (Laughter.)
Look, I know, Washington seems more dysfunctional than
ever. Gridlock has gotten so bad in this town you
have to wonder: What did we do to piss off Chris
Christie so bad? (Laughter and applause.)
One issue, for example, we haven’t been able to agree on is
unemployment insurance. Republicans continue to
refuse to extend it. And you know what, I am
beginning to think they’ve got a point. If you
want to get paid while not working, you should have to run for
Congress just like everybody else. (Laughter and
Of course, there is one thing that keeps Republicans
busy. They have tried more than 50 times to
repeal Obamacare. Despite that, 8 million people
signed up for health care in the first open
enrollment. (Applause.) Which
does lead one to ask, how well does Obamacare have to work before
you don’t want to repeal it? What if everybody’s
cholesterol drops to 120?
(Laughter.) What if your yearly checkup came with
tickets to a Clippers game?
(Laughter.) Not the old, Donald Sterling Clippers
— the new Oprah Clippers. Would that be good
enough? (Laughter.) What if
they gave Mitch McConnell a pulse?
(Laughter.) What is it going to
Anyway, this year, I’ve promised to use more executive actions to
get things done without Congress. My critics call
this the “imperial presidency.” The truth is, I
just show up every day in my office and do my
job. I’ve got a picture of this I
think. (Laughter and applause.)
You would think they’d appreciate a more assertive approach,
considering that the new conservative darling is none other than
Vladimir Putin. (Laughter.)
Last year, Pat Buchanan said Putin is “headed straight for the
Nobel Peace Prize.” He said
this. Now I know it sounds crazy but to be fair,
they give those to just about anybody these days.
(Laughter.) So it could happen.
But it’s not just Pat — Rudy Giuliani said Putin is “what you call
a leader.” Mike Huckabee and Sean Hannity keep
talking about his bare chest, which is kind of
weird. (Laughter.) Look it up —
they talk about it a lot. (Laughter.)
It is strange to think that I have just two and a half years left
in this office. Everywhere I look, there are
reminders that I only hold this job temporarily.
But it’s a long time between now and 2016, and anything can
happen. You may have heard the other day, Hillary
had to dodge a flying shoe at a press conference.
(Laughter and applause.) I love that
Regardless of what happens, I’ve run my last campaign and I’m
beginning to think about my legacy. Some of you
know — Mayor Rahm Emanuel recently announced he is naming a high
school in Chicago after me, which is extremely
humbling. I was even more flattered to hear Rick
Perry, who is here tonight, is doing the same thing in
Texas. Take a look.
(Laughter.) Thank you, Rick. It
means a lot to me. (Laughter and applause.)
And I intend to enjoy all the free time that I will
have. George W. Bush took up painting after he
left office, which inspired me to take up my own artistic
side. (Laughter.) I’m sure
we’ve got a shot of this.
(Laughter.) Maybe not. The joke
doesn’t work without the slide.
(Laughter.) Oh well. Assume
that it was funny. (Laughter.)
Does this happen to you, Joel? It
On a more serious note, tonight reminds us that we really are lucky
to live in a country where reporters get to give a head of state a
hard time on a daily basis — and then, once a year, give him or her
the chance, at least, to try to return the favor.
But we also know that not every journalist, or photographer, or
crewmember is so fortunate, because even as we celebrate the free
press tonight, our thoughts are with those in places around the
globe like Ukraine, and Afghanistan, and Syria, and Egypt, who risk
everything — in some cases, even give their lives — to report the
And what tonight also reminds us is that the fight for full and
fair access goes beyond the chance to ask a
question. As Steve mentioned, decades ago, an
African American who wanted to cover his or her President might be
barred from journalism school, burdened by Jim Crow, and, once in
Washington, banned from press conferences. But
after years of effort, black editors and publishers began meeting
with FDR’s press secretary, Steve Early. And then
they met with the President himself, who declared that a black
reporter would get a credential. And even when
Harry McAlpin made history as the first African American to attend
a presidential news conference, he wasn’t always welcomed by the
other reporters. But he was welcomed by the
President, who told him, I’m glad to see you, McAlpin, and I’m very
happy to have you here.
Now, that sentiment might have worn off once Harry asked him a
question or two — (laughter) — and Harry’s battles
continued. But he made history.
And we’re s proud of Sherman and his family for being here tonight,
and the White House Correspondents Association for creating a
scholarship in Harry’s name. (Applause.)
For over 100 years, even as the White House Correspondents
Association has told the story of America’s progress, you’ve lived
it, too — gradually allowing equal access to women, and minorities,
and gays, and Americans with disabilities. And,
yes, radio, and television, and Internet reporters, as
well. And through it all, you’ve helped make sure
that even as societies change, our fundamental commitment to the
interaction between those who govern and those who ask questions
doesn’t change. And as Jay will attest, it’s a
legacy you carry on enthusiastically every single
And because this is the 100th anniversary of the Correspondents’
Association, I actually recorded an additional brief video thanking
all of you for your hard work. Can we run the
(Video fails to play.)
THE PRESIDENT: What’s going on?
(Laughter.) I was told this would
work. Does anybody know how to fix
(Secretary Sebelius enters from backstage.)
THE PRESIDENT: Oh, thank you.
(Laughter and applause.) You got it?
SECRETARY SEBELIUS: I got this — I see it all the
time. There, that should work.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much,
everybody. God bless you. And
God bless America, and thank you, Kathleen
10:40 P.M. EDT