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CNN Live Event/Special

White House Correspondents' Dinner; Big Week For Biden Launching Reelection Bid; Ron DeSantis Hits Rough Patches Ahead Of Potential 2024 Campaign. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired April 29, 2023 - 20:00   ET



JIM ACOSTA, CNN HOST: "Bloomberg" and "Wall Street Journal" say JPMorgan Chase and PNC Financial are in the process of submitting bids to buy First Republic.

That's the news. Reporting from Washington, I'm Jim Acosta. Thank you very much for joining me this evening. I'll see you again tomorrow starting at 5:00 Eastern. In the meantime, President Biden and host Roy Wood, Jr. headline the White House Correspondents' Dinner. There's my colleague Wolf Blitzer. My other colleague Laura Coates. They're going to be there tonight.

Stay tuned. It's all live coming up next here on CNN. Have a good night.

JESSICA DEAN, CNN HOST: Tonight, a celebration of the First Amendment and the importance of a free press in the United States.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN HOST: Also, jokes. Lots of jokes. All the most powerful people in Washington, except us, all in the same room and about to be roasted by the president and a comedian. The White House Correspondents' Dinner starts now.


GEORGE W. BUSH, 43RD PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Members of the White House Correspondents' Association, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen.


ANNOUNCER: A time honored tradition bringing together Washington's most powerful people.

RONALD REAGAN, 40TH PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm so desperate for attention I almost considered holding a news conference.

ANNOUNCER: And powerful laughs.

BARACK OBAMA, 44TH PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I invited Luther, my anger translator, to join me here tonight.

KEEGAN-MICHAEL KEY, COMEDIAN: I mean, really. What is this dinner? ANNOUNCER: Tonight, comedian Roy Wood, Jr. takes aim at the

politicians and President Biden himself will get in on the fun.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I told my grandkids and Pete Buttigieg they could stay up late and watch this show tonight.

ANNOUNCER: From roasts.

SETH MEYERS, LATE-NIGHT HOST: Donald Trump has been saying that he will run for president as a Republican. I just assumed he was running as a joke.

ANNOUNCER: To jokes.

STEPHEN COLBERT, LATE-NIGHT HOST: Reality has a well-known liberal bias.

ANNOUNCER: To mic drops.

OBAMA: Obama out.

ANNOUNCER: And everywhere in between.

BUSH: Yes.

ANNOUNCER: What will happen this year? The White House Correspondents' Dinner on CNN starts now.


BERMAN: All right. Good evening, everyone. I'm John Berman alongside Jessica Dean. It's great to be with you.

DEAN: Hello, yes, I'm excited for tonight.

BERMAN: Thank you all for joining us on the most anticipated night in Washington of the year. In moments President Biden, he will enter the room at the White House Correspondents' Dinner. Then next hour he will join Roy Wood, Jr. to roast the crowd and, yes, we, the media, ourselves.

DEAN: Can we take a joke? We'll find out. Also in the crowd, Vice President Kamala Harris, many Cabinet officials, senators, House members, also celebrities like John legend, Rosario --

BERMAN: That's Enes Kanter right there, a former NBA basketball player.

DEAN: See, you never know what celebrity will pop up while we're watching this video come in. We know Rosario Dawson is going to be there, Zooey Deschanel also in attendance. And Brittney Griner who spent 10 months in a Russian prison and joining the CNN table the wife and daughter of Alexey Navalny who is still behind bars in Russia.

And it's worth noting, John, that the president and the first lady are meeting with Brittney Griner and her wife before tonight's dinner. BERMAN: Back stage, right now. And you're looking at right now, we

have an amazing group, a surprisingly amazing group.


BERMAN: Joining us in the studio. They will be with us throughout the entire night. We can't thank you all enough for giving up your evening for this. And comic Darrell Hammond is also going to join us live. He knows what it is like to be a host.

But first, we've got something special for you. Our man on the red carpet, Harry Enten, in a tuxedo.

DEAN: Whoa.

BERMAN: There he is, working the room, and Harry, you've got some special guests.

HARRY ENTEN, CNN SENIOR DATA CORRESPONDENT: I do have some special guests here. I've got White House correspondent Phil Mattingly and I have CTM, "CNN THIS MORNING" host Kaitlan Collins.

What's going on, guys?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: I want to preface with Kaitlan was a White House correspondent, right? Before she went all big time and left us to be like an elite anchor.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN THIS MORNING ANCHOR: And actually, Harry, this is your interview to be a White House correspondent. We're actually surprising you here right now.

ENTEN: Oh, no. Oh, no.

MATTINGLY: This is some big moment for you.

ENTEN: Oh, no. Oh, no. Oh, no. So, Phil, I heard this is a special evening for you, not just because you got to hang out with me, because you're getting something tonight? Is that true?

MATTINGLY: Yes. It's mostly the former, obviously. Any time I get personal time with you it makes me happy. No, I'm receiving an award tonight from the White House Correspondents' Association for breaking news, a story that Kaitlan was deeply involved in as well, when President Zelenskyy surprised everyone and came to Washington. It's cool. I'm like excited for the team.

COLLINS: Phil is really downplaying this. This is a very big deal. It's very significant for CNN to get this award, for Phil to get this award for breaking news when President Zelenskyy visited Washington and visited the White House. And it's a very big honor for CNN but for Phil. So we're also excited.

ENTEN: Well, I'm very proud of you, Phil. I know you couldn't win the most beautiful person of the year award. That was awarded to me. But, Kaitlan, let me ask you. What are you looking forward to this evening? COLLINS: OK. I love the White House Correspondents' Dinner because I'm

a total nerd and as everyone watching at home probably knows that it's referred to as nerd prom here in Washington.


And I think it's so great because there are a lot of jokes as John was just noting there. They roast the president, they roast the press, they roast everyone. It's just a moment where we come together but it's also a moment that has a lot to do with democracy and journalism, and one thing that will be highlighted tonight is those who were wrongfully detained, including Evan Gershkovich who's the "Wall Street Journal" reporter.

John and Jessica, several people that are here tonight on the red carpet are wearing "Free Evan" pins. So that will also be a big part of this. And family members will be invited tonight, including of course, Alexey Navalny's family is here. He is of course the big Kremlin critic who is jailed in Russia right now. So there are moments like that that are also really meaningful along with all the humor and moments. So yes.

MATTINGLY: Yes. And if I could just add, there's also -- and I think this is a central component of the dinner, the scholarships. Scholarships were awarded through the White House Correspondents' Association to students. I'm mentoring one of them. Kaitlan has mentored one in the past, several in the past. That's when this is all about. I think it's the understanding of the press, what we're supposed to do and the role that we play, but also the next generation, and these kids are so talented.

COLLINS: So eager.

MATTINGLY: And way better than either -- all three of us ever were coming in. And so to talk to them, to deal with them, and to watch them kind of enjoy this moment, embrace this moment as they take their next steps is pretty awesome.

ENTEN: I love the fact that we can now refer to people younger than us as kids. That strikes --

MATTINGLY: Harry, we are not like -- well, I'm not going to speak for KC over here.

COLLINS: Well, Phil in his mind thinks he's like 50 but he's not.

MATTINGLY: We're old.

ENTEN: You're not that old. You're a young guy.

MATTINGLY: I appreciate it.

COLLINS: Harry, you've been on the red carpet all night. Have you seen any good celebrities?

MATTINGLY: Yes, tell us what's awesome. COLLINS: We just saw Don Legend and Chrissy Teigen walking in. What


ENTEN: So, let's see. I saw Jason Isaacs who I love from "The Patriot." I saw BD Wong who of course I love from "Law and Order: SVU."


ENTEN: I saw Roy Wood earlier who's obviously going to be --

COLLINS: Comedian. Who we interviewed. So he's so funny. An interesting thing about Roy Wood, Jr. is he's been preparing this set and he's been basically doing it. He said he's not slept. He actually went to a comedy club in Washington last night and tried out some of his jokes to an unsuspecting crowd, who I don't even know if they realized he is the headliner at tonight's Correspondents' Dinner.

ENTEN: Well, I think it's going to be a great time and I look forward to seeing you both inside. Maybe the camera will pan over to you guys once in a while.

MATTINGLY: It depends on what the joke is when they do that.

COLLINS: We actually pay the camera guys not to so.

MATTINGLY: Wait, time out. Have you seen Lisa Vanderpump, Lala, the whole "Vanderpump Rules" cast?

ENTEN: I saw them all and now I want to --

MATTINGLY: I heard you're seeking them out.

ENTEN: I was seeking them out and I want to toss back to one of my favorite reality TV stars, John Berman and Jessica Dean.

DEAN: Thank you. Yes, Phil -- oh, there's the president right there walking into the ballroom at the Capitol Hilton.

BERMAN: Roy Wood, we already saw up there on the dais, the vice president as well. And now the president himself. Has there --

Harry, if we still have you, as we're watching this.


BERMAN: Harry, will you just ask Phil if he hasn't walked away who he is wearing tonight?

ENTEN: Did you hear that question, Phil?

MATTINGLY: Yes. Who am I wearing? Am I supposed to know the answer -- can you ask Kaitlan? She's like --


ENTEN: I'm wearing Abe's tuxedo. I don't know if that helps you. I don't know. Kaitlan?

DEAN: Well, you all look fabulous.

ENTEN: Kaitlan, who are you wearing?

COLLINS: I'm not answering that question on principle.

ENTEN: She's not answering that question on principle, John, but I'll just tell you, I think we all look fabulous and so do you back in the studio.

BERMAN: Thanks very much. All right. Let's listen in a little bit to what's going on.

TAMARA KEITH, NPR: We are all thrilled to see you here. All right, Team, don't make me shout about decorum. We are thrilled to see you here, all 2600 of you, who got all dressed up to celebrate the First Amendment and the Fourth Estate.

Your tickets help fund our scholarships for aspiring journalists who you will learn more about later tonight, as well as the work of the White House Correspondents' Association and our more than 600 members. I know that schmoozing is a sport in this room.

We have more than 600 hardworking journalists covering the White House day in and day out, and I want to take a moment to thank the people that you see here sitting here with me up on the stage. This WHCA board is the best WHCA board in the 109-year history of our organization.


KEITH: And to quote the president, that isn't hyperbole. Or maybe it is. But this one's too good to fact-check. This team dedicates countless hours to the mostly very unglamorous work of the WHCA, coordinating pools, reviewing membership applications, managing logistics for travel, foreign and domestic, advocating for their competitors, fielding - managing logistics for travel, foreign and domestic, advocating managing logistics for travel, foreign and domestic, advocating for competitor, fielding complaints about dirty bathrooms and rodents. Oh, and sometimes calling for decorum at the top of our lungs.

This board puts the needs of the press corps ahead of their own jobs and certainly their personal lives. Our pro bono attorney, George Lehner, over there. He is always here for us with advice that is worth far more than we're paying him. Thank you, George.

Steve Thomma, our executive director, who you do not see because he is running around backstage, does more for this association than I can even fathom. And on top of that, he takes a lot of the incoming. So thank you, Steve.


KEITH: Later this year two clutch players plan to leave the WHCA board which is hard to imagine because they do so much for the press corps every single day. Todd Gillman from "The Dallas Morning News."


KEITH: Todd, who served as the print representative on the board for nine long years. It is hard to overstate how much work he has done for the press corps. The print pool reports are truly the first draft of history and he has been essential in making sure highly qualified poolers are on duty every single day. And Doug Mills, Doug Mills, everyone.


KEITH: Doug has been serving on the board as the photo representative for a very long time. We think it is 24 years but no one is counting. He coordinates the rotations for the still photographers and makes sure that they are in position to get the best shots. He is arguably the mayor of the press corps, and although we'd like to make him mayor for life, he has decided that this will be his last term on the board.

Please give them both some love.


KEITH: And to show my appreciation, I picked up a few items for them from the WHCA merch store. Can we get those tote bags out here?

Ladies and gentlemen, this is Lakshmi Singh, our announcer for tonight. Thank you. Lakshmi is with NPR's newscast team. You all know her voice. And let me tell you the good news about these tote bags, you do not even have to donate $12 a month as the sustaining member to get them. They are just $15 in the merch store and a portion of the proceeds support the work we do.

There's a postcard at your seat with a QR code that will take you to our merch store. Also we have Wi-Fi. There you can purchase hats, stickers, limited edition shirts to prove that you were here tonight. And of course tote bags. There's also a donate button if you're not into merch. That's on our Web site.

All right. You have all survived the pledge drive portion of this dinner. Now I'm going to take a brief moment, a personal privilege. Being WHCA president is a more than full time job but without the pay and I would like to thank the employer that pays me, and he's been my journalism home for more than a decade, who's been more supportive, NPR.


KEITH: Most especially my colleagues on the White House beat, Scott Detrow, Franco Ordonez, Asma Khalid, Mara Liasson, and our most extraordinary editor Roberta Rampton.


KEITH: As well as the team on the NPR politics broadcast who produces the podcast, all of whom have picked up my slack a lot in the past year.

I also want to acknowledge my parents who are in the front who gave me --


KEITH: They gave me an early start to listening to NPR. My sons Davis and Gibson who have gone back to the room to watch television and eat French fries, they thought my job was extremely boring until they learned that I sometimes get to fly on helicopters.


KEITH: And my husband Ira who in addition to being wicked smart and hilarious and always knowing the right thing to say has done more than his fair share of parenting this year. Thank you for always believing in me. More.


KEITH: And if you enjoy tonight's show, that is thanks to our producers Bob Bain and his team, Ben Fleischman, Paul Flattery, Phillip DeMore, Jeremy Tominberg, Kelly Brock, all of whom have worked pro bono to put on this event.


So that is it for now. You can continue talking, and please enjoy your meal. Our servers are the best in the business. The Marine band will now play the Armed Service medley and we'll start the show in a bit.

DEAN: And there it is, Tamara Keith kicking it off. She is the president of the White House Correspondents' Association, of course, who's hosting tonight's dinner. And it's fun to see it all get under way so we'll keep following it.

The president there, the vice president there, and just a reminder you're going to see the president and comedian Roy Wood Jr. roast Washington.

This is CNN's special live coverage, and we're back in just a moment.


BERMAN: All right, welcome back to our special coverage of the White House Correspondents' Dinner, and as we await President Biden's speech, and you can see him live right there. You also see the first lady standing there.


This was already, even before this speech which is admittedly a very big moment, this was already a big week for him. He finally made it official.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BIDEN: This is not a time to be complacent. That's why I'm running for re-election. Let's finish this job. I know we can.


BERMAN: So as he vies for four more years, the spotlight is turning up on Vice President Kamala Harris, also in the room this evening, who appears all over the presidential announcement video more than a dozen times.

Now Republicans are piling on very early in this election cycle as any opposition party would. They are putting her under intense scrutiny as she now runs alongside a president who will be 86 at the end of his second term if he is re-elected.

Let's talk about all this, let's talk about what we're about to see tonight. We are here with this all -- truly, all-star panel. Right?

DEAN: It's a great panel. Yes.

BERMAN: Scott Jennings, Ashley Allison, Catherine Rampell, LZ Granderson, and Alexandra Petri, thank you all like so much for being here.

Let's start down at the end of the table. What are you most looking forward to tonight?

ALEXANDRA PETRI, WASHINGTON POST COLUMNIST: Well, I feel like ever since the start of the White House Correspondents' Dinner in like 1924-ish I think with Calvin Coolidge, I'm always curious to hear -- I mean, the first thing I'm excited for is I think Roy Wood is going to be phenomenal, because he's always phenomenal. But the second thing I'm excited for is to see if the president has jokes, because I was going back and looking, like, did Calvin Coolidge had jokes?

He had some remarks along the lines of Congress is supposed to be engaged with legislation according to the Constitution, which could be some of Calvin Coolidge's, you know, signature dry wit, but might just have been a straightforward --

DEAN: Did he have a signature dry wit?


BERMAN: Silent, yes.

SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Let's be honest, that would be a joke to Joe Biden who loves executive orders more than I think he loves passing legislation. You know what I think I'd like to hear from Joe Biden tonight, first of all, how many note cards must he have in his pockets because like 10,000 note cards so he can know everybody in the room?

The First Amendment is in crisis right now. This is the least transparent president in modern history. Half of Americans think the news media is out to mislead them. And this president, I don't think has done anything to bolster confidence that he believes these reporters deserve his respect.

I would love to hear him -- I would love to hear him say, as I run for re-election I'm actually going to engage with you and not force you to submit your questions in advance. That's what I'd love to hear him say.

LZ GRANDERSON, OP-ED COLUMNIST, LOS ANGELES TIMES: I always chuckle at people who categorize modern times as being the worst of all time. You know, if you even think about just how this organization got started, it's because you had a president that didn't want to hold press conferences. How is Joe Biden the most nontransparent in history when Woodrow Wilson who actually was the impetus for this entire organization prompted journalists to create this because he wouldn't do press conferences.

JENNINGS: I'm just reading from "The New York Times." I don't know if you think they're fake news or not, but that's their reporting this week.

GRANDERSON: I don't know -- listen, I'm just telling you about the history of the country and it just seems as though to call a modern person the worst ever when the reason why it was started because he didn't want to talk to the media at all just seems a little bit like hyperbole to me.

ASHLEY ALLISON, FORMER NATIONAL COALITIONS DIRECTOR FOR BIDEN-HARRIS 2020: Look, I think tonight is a great opportunity for Joe Biden to reintroduce himself to the American public. He said let's finish the job, well, this is probably one of the nights when most Americans are actually tuned in to what's happening in Washington because there's some comedy associated with it. Most Americans are too busy trying to think about how they're going to get their kids to school and will those kids be safe when they actually get to school. And so tonight I would love to see Joe Biden not just talk about policy but really show his personality.

And then on the other side I'm really looking forward to Roy and the -- I want to see the culture come through.


ALLISON: I think there's going to be some great opportunities for cultural moments, for people who are sometimes felt like they are not seen in Washington, D.C., to really see themselves in that room tonight.

BERMAN: There's comedy and comities, spelled both ways, right? E-D-Y.


BERMAN: No, and I-T-Y.

DEAN: Yes, yes, yes.

BERMAN: You get both of it tonight. Sometimes. And that will be fun to see. Catherine? CATHERINE RAMPELL, CNN ECONOMICS AND POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, I

think what will be interesting is how Biden engages with the crowd, right? Top of mind for him right now is this concern, I presume, that voters think he might be too old to be president. And he needs to show he has energy. He needs to show he's got jokes. He's got timing.

You know, the White House after the State of the Union touted for weeks the fact that he had this, you know, great moment where he kind of set Republicans up to boo him on Social Security cuts, and, you know, took that as a victory like, look, he's on the ball. He can engage, he can, you know, engage in real time with political enemies and I think his job tonight is basically to show that he has a pulse and he's with it.

JENNINGS: Don't set the bar too high.

DEAN: Which is what I was going to say. It's a high bar.

JENNINGS: Lord have mercy.


DEAN: But it is an interesting moment, right, to -- that was that high bar. But to reach a lot of people to your point, Ashley, like --

BERMAN: John Legend right there.

DEAN: John Legen and Chrissy Teigen, who are both, by the way, very politically active. So it's not surprising to see them here. I know that they really are politically active and enjoy politics. But this is going to be a great chance for Joe Biden in clips, right? That a lot of people don't even watch it live. We're so glad for all of you who are. Please stay with us. Don't go anywhere.


DEAN: But for those out there who may not be, you know, they're going to wake up tomorrow and it's going to be clips on social media and that sort of thing. And it is a way for them to reach a different audience, frankly, tonight.

ALLISON: It really is. I mean, I think a lot of people, even if you were, you know, I meet young people and they're like, I was 2 when Obama was elected and my heart stops beating but they also like, you know, they might not remember when his angry interpreter came in but we still have those clips on social media and when real jokes land, they can go on for generations and I think we'll see it on TikTok, Twitter, Instagram, and it will give your everyday entrepreneurial influencer an opportunity to take that information and then disseminate it to their audience. And that's really how you communicate these days.

BERMAN: Scott, you worked in the George W. Bush White House. I mean, how -- do you remember or did you see the preparation that went into this?

JENNINGS: Yes, I went a few times. I mean, look, for Republicans this is a different affair than it is for --

MELBER: But Bush was into it. I mean --


BERMAN: George W. Bush got into it and he came to play.


BERMAN: So how did he get ready for it?


ALLISON: Some Republicans didn't even go, like our last president.

JENNINGS: I'm interested in the comedy tonight because, you're right, these presidents, Bush was into it, whatever. No one ever makes fun of Joe Biden. You guys watch "Saturday Night Live" lately. It's 25 skits about Trump and nary a mention that Joe Biden is the president of the United States. I want to see if tonight he's engaging but I want to see if the comedian is going to hold the president a little bit accountable tonight. I hope he does because I think it's important.

GRANDERSON: I'm really looking forward to Roy Wood, Jr. I've known him for a number of years. He actually was a guest on my radio show in Los Angeles for a number of years and the one thing that was always true about Roy was that he was unafraid to go there against anyone. So you may get your wish.

JENNINGS: I hope so. But, look, there has never been more material for American comedy than Joseph Robinette Biden. I'm sorry --

BERMAN: Never?

JENNINGS: Like this guy --

BERMAN: Never ever?

GRANDERSON: You're doing it again. You're doing it again.

JENNINGS: Every day, every day this man wakes up, he is a font of content.


JENNINGS: And yet it goes unused so tonight, maybe of all nights, we'll see --

GRANDERSON: Threw tomatoes at Herbert Hoover, and it's Joe Biden is the worst for you. Come on, man.

JENNINGS: I didn't say he was the worst. I said he was the best.

BERMAN: I mean, we just talked about Calvin Coolidge over here.

PETRI: I do feel like this is one of those occasions and people are like, comedians are the ones who really speak truth to power. And tonight is a night when literally a comedian will be speaking truth to power. Like, because I know with most sort of professional associations when you have your annual gala dinner, like all of the plumbers are not like they also invite a club toilet to be part of their evening of celebration but, like, you know, journalists, you bring the thing that you're supposed to be dealing with.

I should have worked on that analogy before we started out here but, you know, I assume that you don't bring a clogged toilet. It would be frowned on if you did that.


DEAN: Here's Phil Mattingly, everyone.

BERMAN: That's Phil Mattingly right there wearing apparently a rented tuxedo. He was afraid to tell us who he was wearing before. Phil is winning an award tonight for some amazing work. Just one of the many journalists who will be honored tonight. And remember, this is a night about journalism. This is a night about free speech. You know, it's also a night about jokes. So we'll see that, too.

DEAN: A nice mix. So stand by for all of it. We've got the president, we've got Roy Wood, Jr. taking the microphone, of course.

Special coverage is continuing on CNN.




JAY LENO, FORMER LATE-NIGHT HOST: Last month President Obama threw out the first pitch at the Washington Nationals game against the Philadelphia Phillies. Did you see the pitch? It was not a good pitch. But to be fair, he had just come from an interview on MSNBC and I think you're used to softball. So I think that's probably what --

DREW CAREY, COMEDIAN: I love watching him give -- I'm telling you, you give the greatest speeches. Every time I get a chance I watch because every time he gets to a big word it's like watching a high-wire act.


CAREY: Is he going to do it? Yes, he did it.


BERMAN: All right, welcome back, everyone.

Scott Jennings, there was just a Republican president sitting at the White House Correspondents' Dinner. George W. Bush. Chuckling, laughing it up.

DEAN: He seemed to be having a nice time, yes. BERMAN: So there is a long history of members of both parties enjoying

themselves tonight.

DEAN: Or pretending to.

BERMAN: Or pretending to.


DEAN: Whatever it takes.

BERMAN: Let me tell you something, how many times have I been in a tuxedo where I wasn't pretending to enjoy myself? Let's just leave that out there.

GRANDERSON: I hope it wasn't your wedding.

BERMAN: No, no. That was the one. Just one. One. Now I'm not enjoying this.


BERMAN: All right. We were just talking about the president's re- election announcement this week, right? It's also a big week on the Republican side. You know, one major -- there are many announced candidates so far, but Donald Trump is leading the pack right now. His rape accuser E. Jean Carroll testified against him in a civil trial in New York. His former vice president who may end up running against him just testified this week before a federal grand jury investigating Trump in January 6th.

And then there is Florida Governor Ron DeSantis who almost definitely is a presidential contender. A lot of people think he had a rough week with a showing in the polls where he may be slipping some, maybe some donors backing away, that's what the Trump people are certainly spinning. And this feud with Disney going back and forth.

So back with us are our all-star panel waiting for Roy Wood and Joe Biden to get up and tell jokes, but while we are waiting for them.

DEAN: What better way to pass the time.

BERMAN: What better way to pass the time than talk about the presidential race in the Republican side where a lot of stuff did happen this week.

You know, Catherine, I'll start with you since we -- you know, just as you're looking at the posturing that's going on right you, what jumps out to you?


RAMPELL: I think it's been very interesting to watch both Ron DeSantis' actual behavior and how it is being portrayed and received by his party for that matter. You know, DeSantis to me has in many ways kind of modeled himself as a mini-Trump, right, like a smarter mini-Trump. He's gone after immigrants. He's done some of the conspiracy theorizing, he recently said that the fed was going to take away your guns, for example.

Now he's, you know, fighting with Mickey Mouse because I think Trump has kind of modeled this behavior of fighting with some big corporation, although, you know, fighting with big tech to me seems a little bit different than fighting with a beloved, you know, animation company or, you know, a major empire.

DEAN: Media company. Yes.

RAMPELL: Media company, and so I think it's been interesting to see that there was a turn this week, it seems, although I don't see much of a break in his behavior so I don't understand exactly why there seems to be more negativity, more donors, you know, high-profile Republican donors saying that they are abandoning him.

I have not been a fan of his to be clear for a while, but I don't necessarily see any difference in how he's behaving now versus how he was behaving a year ago. This Mickey Mouse fight has been going on for a year.

DEAN: Yes. It definitely has. And you know, I was with him in New Hampshire, gosh, what is time? I don't know. Two weeks ago, I think. And he was there talking to the New Hampshire Republican Party, and he raised a record amount of money for them and, you know, there's all this talk all the time about what he's like with people and can he -- you know, can he do retail politics, which they certainly expect in New Hampshire and demand of their candidates.

And I did watch him like work the room for an hour and he did his speech and all of that, and he seems like a man who is running. You know, there's a lot of box checking happening right now. But I do think and I'd be curious what you all think, but just here in Washington, in the bubble in which we live sometimes, you know, the narratives about candidates before they even get in can be like, oh, all the buzz.

Well, then that kind of gets a little bit boring, so then it has to be, well, now, now, maybe, you know, maybe it's going to crash and burn, maybe he's never going to or she's never going to get off the ground.

RAMPELL: Maybe he is really hyped and now people are kind of discovering --

DEAN: And like then maybe there's a swing back up, you know, he has a comeback.

Scott, Ashley?

ALLISON: I never believed the DeSantis hype. I still think he would be a very strong contender. Look, after the 2020 midterms, because Republicans did not do as well as so many people did, but DeSantis was one of the folks who came out and did better than most in terms of his margin of victory, got a lot of air in his balloon, and I think people were really hoping, particularly in the Republican Party, that he took off because many don't want Trump.

And so he seemed like someone who was still in line with Trump's policies, and maybe even to the right of Trump on some of the things when you look at a six-week abortion ban that just went in to effect in Florida or the banning of books and removing African-American history from curriculum. You know, that is really speaking to the right, the base of the Republican Party, and so I think folks were hoping he would take off, but you can't peak too soon and maybe if he was going to run maybe he should have ridden that wave and now the story is still going to be told, you just better hope it's in your favor and right now it's not going that way.

GRANDERSON: It's my sense that, you know, the Democrats didn't fight either for that governor's race.


GRANDERSON: I mean Charlie Crist was basically sort of like a scarecrow stuck in the field and they were just sort of hoping that he could just be an alternative, but he never seemed to be a very good candidate to begin with. So I think that's part of the reason why it was easy to see why there was such a huge gap in DeSantis' victory because he really wasn't fighting against someone.

His first campaign, however, against the Tallahassee mayor, now, that was competitive and he barely won that race, so I think, you know, the hype is also a little bit inflated because he didn't really fight against anyone.

JENNINGS: I think a couple of things are going on. Number one, you cannot undercount the infusion of energy into the Trump campaign that this indictment in New York has been. Money, energy, people rallying around him. So some of this has nothing to do with DeSantis and everything to do with Alvin Bragg's indictment, that's number one.

Number two, I think DeSantis not being in the race and Trump being in the race and actually trying, that makes a difference when you're actually campaigning and you're trying, that makes a difference. Number three, it strikes me that 100 percent of the Democrats want Trump, 100 percent of the political media wants Trump, half the Republicans do and half the Republicans don't, but you can see there are massive forces aligning to get rid of DeSantis now because for many reasons people would rather have Trump.

And that's what's happening and I don't know if DeSantis was caught flat-footed by that but I think it's pretty apparent. Many, many corners of our political spectrum see him as a threat, Trump, the left, and they're working together right now to try to stop him before he ever gets started.

PETRI: Well, having read Ron DeSantis' weird off-putting book, I think that he is making a very strange entry into this.


The book, I should say, he never uses the verb was. At any time when you should say, like, these people were the salt of the earth. He's like they represented the salt of the earth. Very annoying book to read.


PETRI: In addition to all the horrible nightmarish policies embracing it, but just really not a humdinger. Do not recommend. But I would say that, like why is he starting by fighting Disney? Disney has lawyers for things I don't even know exists. Like you know when you're getting on the national stage the last thing you want to do is something you're bad at, something that you know you're set up.

It will be like me getting on TV to like eat pudding in an off-putting way against Ron DeSantis, but I don't know. It just seems like a bad start.

GRANDERSON: It's really about going back to your earlier point about Trump and the indictment. If you really look at the timeline, you know, particularly starting at 2018 when he's running for governor the first time, right, and he's straight up said that we should not be getting to the battle of bathroom wars with transgender individuals. That's what he said during the Republican primary. We should not be fighting trans people when it comes to bathrooms.

Fast-forward to the indictment in 2019, all of a sudden now he's going after trans, he's going after LGBT, he's gone to black, he's gone up to everyone. Why? Because Trump looked vulnerable. Look at the timeline. Prior to Trump's indictment, he seems to be more of a moderate Floridian. After the indictment, he started pushing towards Nebraska, pushing towards Louisiana, leaving Florida behind because he needed to appeal to a broader base across the country. That's why he's much more conservative now.

BERMAN: All right. We are awaiting the big moment to the White House Correspondents' Dinner. Roy Wood, comedian, will be speaking pretty shortly. President Biden as well. We are going to go back to the red carpet, though. We've got some incredibly special guests.

DEAN: Oh, look.

BERMAN: Look at that. Look at those faces. What are they hiding? Stay with us. Our special coverage of the White House Correspondents' Dinner continues right after this.



DEAN: Welcome back, everyone. Our special coverage of the White House Correspondents' Dinner is continuing with President Biden set to speak very soon, but right now there's just a lot of talking happening. A lot of mingling, a lot of schmoozing.

Let's head back to the red carpet where Harry Enten is with some of our shiniest stars here at CNN, Brianna and Wolf. ENTEN: Yes, I'm here with two former White House correspondents and,

you know, Brianna was talking to me before about how helpful Wolf was when she decided to become a White House correspondent.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR, CNN NEWS CENTRAL: When I decided -- when I was like honored to get the opportunity.

ENTEN: We're told to do it.

KEILAR: Right. So it's a combo. I really wanted to do it. But, no, Wolf was amazing because as soon as I became a White House correspondent, he sort of was like, look, kid, and he gave me some advice. He took me out for dinner and he gave me some really good advice. I'm going to keep it -- I feel like it's sort of like secret recipes, so I'm not going to disclose what it was but it was basically about how to be successful as a White House correspondent.

And I just always really appreciated that, that you sort of took me under your wing as I know that you do with so many people who get the privilege to cover the White House to try to make sure that they can succeed covering it.


KEILAR: Thank you.

BLITZER: I spent seven years as CNN's White House correspondent during the Bill Clinton administration, and I learned a lot, and I always felt it was important to tell the new White House correspondents, give them some advice and I hope it worked.

KEILAR: Yes. What really mattered, because Wolf was there covering the White House at a time it was such an inflection point for what it was for TV coverage of the White House. Things really changed during those year.


KEILAR: And you really passed on your knowledge. It was really -- it was amazing. Thank you.

BLITZER: Yes. It was the Clinton administration. You're too young, Harry, to remember.

ENTEN: I will say, when the Clinton administration started, I was not yet in elementary school, so imagine the time certainly flies.

Wolf, I'm surprised that they allowed you out of "THE SITUATION ROOM." They allowed that?

BLITZER: Aren't we in "THE SITUATION ROOM" right now.

ENTEN: We're in my situation room.

BLITZER: You have your own situation room?

ENTEN: This is my situation room. It turns out they're now giving out situation rooms to anyone at CNN who asked for it.

BLITZER: You know, because whatever room I'm in, there is a situation.

ENTEN: That --

BLITZER: That's why we call it the situation room. There's a situation room going -- situation going on here at this hotel tonight.

ENTEN: Is there?

BLITZER: A big dinner.

ENTEN: Are you looking forward to --

BLITZER: I am. I've been going to these dinners, what, for 30 years? Yes.

ENTEN: What about Roy Wood, what are you looking forward to?

BLITZER: I'm looking forward to a few laughs. That's what I like. Yes. We could all use a few laughs.

ENTEN: I've been told that John Berman wants to talk to me. John, why do you want to talk with me?

BERMAN: Well, we've got such a font of reporting knowledge with you and people who have been to so many Correspondents' Dinners. I'm curious, I mean, Brianna, I assume your favorite was last year when you were sitting here with me. But, Wolf, of all the Correspondents' Dinners that you've attended --

DEAN: This would now be my favorite Correspondents' Dinner. Just so we all know.

BERMAN: Do you have a favorite, Wolf, or does one stand out to you as being the most meaningful or historic?

BLITZER: All of them stand out as being a lot of fun. You know, sometimes the jokes get a little --


BLITZER: You know, a few times some of the hosts have made some fun of me sitting over there, so I remember those. I won't repeat the jokes but I remember those.

ENTEN: I can't believe that they would make fun of Wolf because as I told him before we went on, I spoke to many people at CNN and I have never found a single person who has had anything negative to say about Wolf Blitzer.

BLITZER: Comedians sometimes. There's not a lot of comedians at CNN but sometimes the comedians at these dinners have a few laughs at my expense.

KEILAR: It's always good natured, even the comedians when they make fun of Wolf, though, you know. It's very good natured how they make fun of him. But I think, you know, the dinner, there are some laughs, but there are also dinners that are pretty consequential when you think of the one right before the Osama bin Laden raid, right? You think of that.


You think of the one where Donald Trump attended and Obama roasted him, and now you kind of look back at that, sort of what did that moment mean and things.

BLITZER: That was historic, yes.

KEILAR: Yes. That was historic. So I think there's -- even though there are sometimes where things are funny, sometimes things get a little crazy, there are also these moments where it's beyond at just being a joke. It's actually a night that really matters. And of course we're always here for the journalism, right?


KEILAR: We're always here for the journalism and to think about the First Amendment, and especially I think this year with Evan being wrongfully detained in Russia, this is something that is on our minds.

BLITZER: We're all thinking about Evan Gershkovich. We want him home.

ENTEN: I think that's a sentiment that we can all stand by.

John, Jessica, take it away, guys.

BERMAN: All right, Harry, Brianna Keilar, and Wolf Blitzer, three of the kindest people I know and three of the most terrific journalists, thank you all for being with us.

DEAN: And keep it right here on CNN. We are waiting for the night to really get started, and we'll be back in just a moment.



DEAN: All right, we're back at it and we know we're kind of watching as the video comes in to see who is in the crowd right now. And we have seen Brittney Griner who has been talking to people. We know that she and her wife met with the president and first lady before going into that ballroom tonight. And of course she was detained in Russia. And I don't know -- I don't think she's been to an event of this magnitude since -- I mean, you have to think, God, what a swing for her in terms of being in a prison cell in Russia and now being in the room.

BERMAN: She just did a press conference for the first time this week, and that was I think -- you know, it can't be easy to come out and do that. And now she's in this huge room. There aren't many events like this to be fair. DEAN: Right.

BERMAN: Where you have this many possible people who want to come up to you and ask you questions, but also get her picture taken.

DEAN: Take pictures, I'm going to say yes.

BERMAN: So this has got to be quite a thing. And yes, you know, the president did meet with them backstage there. And obviously on everyone's mind tonight is Evan Gershkovich, the "Wall Street Journal" reporter.

DEAN: And, you know, he did also meet with his family, Evan Gershkovich's family, he and the first lady, before he came out tonight. And I think our colleagues were saying that people were wearing "Free Evan" buttons on the red carpet tonight. And I do think that that is so front of mind for so many people in that room, and I expect we'll hear a lot more about Evan tonight as the program goes on.

BERMAN: I'm sure we will. All right, this is CNN's special live coverage of the White House Correspondents' Dinner. Make sure you stay where you are because in the off chance you have to leave, you get a snack or something, you're going to miss all the fun, all the fun of the evening. We're talking about the jokes, some of which will be at frankly the media's expense, President Biden, Roy Wood, Jr. There is Brittney Griner right now, live pictures as we said. Everyone I'm sure wanting to talk to her. Nice to see her smile.

DEAN: Yes.