Monday 21 January 2019

'We were late because Jared couldn't get through security' - Trump engages in rare good-natured duel with media

U.S. President Donald Trump waves upon his arrival in West Palm Beach
U.S. President Donald Trump waves upon his arrival in West Palm Beach

Zeke Miller and Jill Colvin

President Donald Trump has engaged in a good-natured duel of one-liners with political rivals and the press at the annual Gridiron Dinner.

The president dished out sharp one-liners throughout his comments on Saturday night, occasionally lapsing into recurring themes about the 2016 election and media bias.

"Nobody does self-deprecating humour better than I do. It's not even close," said President Trump, who skipped last year's dinner.

He also said: "I was very excited to receive this invitation and ruin your evening in person. That's why I accepted."

The annual dinner of the Gridiron Club and Foundation, now in its 133rd year, traced its history to 1885, the year President Grover Cleveland refused to attend. Every president since has come to at least one Gridiron.

"Rest assured, Mr President, this crowd is way bigger than Cleveland's," Club President David Lightman, congressional editor for McClatchy News, told the white-tie audience at the Renaissance Washington Hotel.

The organisation said the event attracted about 660 journalists, media executives, politicians, administration officials and military officers.

Members of the Washington press corps sharpened their wits for musical and rhetorical takedowns of the president, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama.

President Trump's speech lasted more than half-an-hour and included plenty of one-liners.

A sample of his barbs:

- On his son-in-law: "We were late tonight because Jared could not get through security."

- On Vice President Mike Pence: "He is one of the best straight men you're ever going to meet ... he is straight. Man." Trump also said, "I really am proud to call him the apprentice "

- On Attorney General Jeff Sessions: "I offered him a ride over and he recused himself. What are you going to do?"

- On The New York Times: "I'm a New York icon. You're a New York icon. And the only difference is I still own my buildings."

- On former chief strategist Steven Bannon: "That guy leaked more than the Titanic."

- On the first lady: Trump said he doesn't understand why everyone says #freemelania. He said she's actually having a great time.

Towards the end of his comments, President Trump could not resist some of his favourite themes, revisiting his election night victory and chiding reporters to be fair.

He closed by saying: "I just want to say this, this is one of the best times I've had with the media - this might be the most fun I've had since watching your faces on election night."

Press Association

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