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The White House holiday party for the press corps is one of those occasions when journalists balance their adversarial independence and their institutional role … and invariably decide to come to the party in the cheerily decorated East Wing. Even the New York Times, which eschews the White House Correspondents Association affair, sent a delegation. The New York Post wrote a whole article this year complaining they hadn’t been invited. Attendees get the opportunity to bring a friend or family member to the White House (which is, after all, the White House), for a photo with the president (who is, after all, the president), a hard thing to turn down.
Given the goodwill and the captive, well-fed audience, Wednesday’s party was also a prime opportunity for President Joe Biden to dispel his main problem with the U.S. media right now — the undercurrent of concern that he’s too old for the job. It was an opportunity to say, in some sense: Hey, you idiots, I may be old but I’m fine.
That was clearly the goal of brief remarks he made at the East Wing party, which began with the usual joke — I’m for a free press, even when you drive me crazy. But he then strayed into a couple of hazy monologues, which ended only when his wife interrupted him to remind him it was a party. His speech wasn’t terrible, or even noteworthy. But everyone in the room realized Biden had a simple rhetorical job and hadn’t quite pulled it off.
Biden then stood for hours, grinning and gripping and making coherent conversation on a photo line — a feat of endurance and a bit of a nightmare at any age. Still, I’d expect that speech to echo quietly in reporters’ minds — and in their coverage — over the coming months.
Also today: Max has an eyebrow-raising scoop on AI chewing up financial journalism. Plus, Axios’ AI illustrations, a prestige podcast seeks a new home, the Trump campaign spreads a fake NBC News clip, Times reporters’ salaries are revealed, MacKenzie Scott writes her first check to a news organization, and smaller Hollywood players feel the heat. (Scoop count: 5)