President Obama: 'My joke writers have been placed on furlough'
March 9th, 2013
11:50 PM ET
10 years ago

President Obama: 'My joke writers have been placed on furlough'

Washington (CNN) – President Barack Obama attended the Gridiron Club and Foundation’s annual dinner in Washington Saturday night, even cracking a joke on forced budget cuts along the way.

The annual event brings together politicians and Washington’s media elite. Because there’s limited press access, presidents who attend usually act a little looser than when the camera light is on.

This is the second time Obama has attended the dinner as president but the first since 2011.

“As you know, I last attended the Gridiron dinner two years ago. Back then, I addressed a number of topics - a dysfunctional Congress, a looming budget crisis, complaints that I don’t spend enough time with the press. It’s funny, it seems like it was just yesterday,” Obama said.

This year, the president said the jokes were a little harder to come by because of forced budget cuts and also talked of the notoriously long dinner.

“My joke writers have been placed on furlough,” Obama said. “Of course there is one thing in Washington that didn’t get cut: The length of this dinner. Yet more proof that the sequester makes no sense.”

Vice President Joe Biden wasn’t in attendance but his presence was still felt. Biden is rumored to be a potential presidential nominee in 2016 but Obama said he may have different aspirations.

“(The) vice president is still ambitious. But let's face it, his age is an issue. Just the other day, I had to take Joe aside and say, ‘Joe, you are way too young to be the pope,’” Obama said.

Obama even made light of Sen. Marco Rubio’s infamous water sip during the Republican response following the State of the Union address.

“Of course, as I begin my second term, our country is still facing enormous challenges,” the president said, taking a long sip of water. “That, Marco Rubio, is how you take a sip of water.”

The president also brought up his new Secretary of State, John Kerry, and compared him to his predecessor, the famously pantsuit-wearing Hillary Clinton.

“Let’s face it - Hillary is a tough act to follow. But John Kerry is doing great so far. He is doing everything he can to ensure continuity. Frankly, though, I think it’s time for him to stop showing up at work in pantsuits. It's a disturbing image,” Obama said.

Every president since 1885 except for Grover Cleveland has spoken at the 128-year-old organization’s dinner.

The Gridiron is a media organization bringing together the “who’s who” of the Washington press corps. About 650 people attended the dinner according to Gridiron and they included top politicians and journalists. There are 65 members of the Gridiron and membership is by invitation only. The group is a charitable organization and provides annual scholarships to colleges and journalistic organizations.

Despite being a media organization, the dinner is traditionally closed to the television press pool which typically covers the president. But a newspaper pool reporter was allowed into the dinner Saturday for the first time ever and provided updates to the media. The idea behind the limited media access is to allow both club members and politicians a chance to let their guards down and tell jokes they may not otherwise tell with cameras watching and listening.

Still, some have criticized the gathering both for the limited media access and for the perceived coziness between the press and politicians they have to report on.

Obama will be attending the larger White House Correspondents’ Dinner next month which does allow television media coverage.

The president ended tonight’s dinner on a serious note, thanking journalists for the work they do.

“In an age when all it takes to attract attention is a Twitter handle and some followers, it’s easier than ever to get it wrong. But it’s more important than ever to get it right. And I’m grateful for all the journalists who do one of the toughest jobs there is with integrity and insight and dedication and a sense of purpose that goes beyond a business model or a news cycle,” Obama said.

Filed under: President Obama
soundoff (34 Responses)
  1. Marty

    He fired his writers?!?!? Does that count as jobs either saved or created?

    March 10, 2013 12:09 am at 12:09 am |
  2. Boulian

    Glad he thinks the furloughed people are something to joke about. Is he going to help feed their families and help pay their mortgages? Of course not.

    March 10, 2013 12:10 am at 12:10 am |
  3. batjones

    Dear Mr Clary: Please take a second look at your sentence -"This is the second time Obama has attended the dinner as president but the first since 2011." There has only been a gap of a single year since the attendance of the President at the annual event. Perhaps you could have stated: "This is the second time Obama has attended the dinner as president, the first being in 2011."

    March 10, 2013 12:18 am at 12:18 am |
  4. pheaniques

    So the President is trying to get closer to the Media Elite...that should be a neat trick...and may require surgery

    March 10, 2013 12:47 am at 12:47 am |
  5. Peten

    The biggest joke is him and Biden

    March 10, 2013 01:39 am at 1:39 am |
  6. SugarKube

    Does Obama think the state of the economy is funny?. Maybe it's time he get serious about cleaning up his mes

    March 10, 2013 03:26 am at 3:26 am |
  7. memo2

    Mr Obama is time to take it more seriously, a lot of people been hurt in many ways already cause of you actual policies and the bank issues.

    March 10, 2013 03:54 am at 3:54 am |
  8. Jack

    Obama and the rest of these idiots spend lots of money on this dinner, yet want others to make cuts. How does he expect these govenment offices to make proper cuts when he has not had a budget passed in years to which they could base their cuts on?

    March 10, 2013 03:57 am at 3:57 am |
  9. memo2

    On the other hand, stop spending the tax payer money because you listen the wrong people, it's time to listen the citizens of this Nation.

    March 10, 2013 04:01 am at 4:01 am |
  10. InsertNameHere

    Money would be spent on something as pointless as "joke writers".

    March 10, 2013 04:16 am at 4:16 am |
  11. RJ Sands

    He has never had any. He has been the center of all attention!

    March 10, 2013 04:28 am at 4:28 am |
  12. The Thinker1958

    media has integrity and insight? now I know that Obama was joking even till the end. The media is not making comments about the atrocities in Bahrain (police killing people by showering neighbourhoods with pepper spray bombs... chemical warfare). Do they ever defend Bradley Manning (who did the best media job by getting real information about the war).

    March 10, 2013 04:29 am at 4:29 am |
  13. JJ

    What he is putting America through is no laughing matter.

    March 10, 2013 04:41 am at 4:41 am |
  14. Abraham V.Sheriff

    We will continue supporting our President until Congress stop saying something that does not important to the American people.
    Thanks !

    March 10, 2013 05:18 am at 5:18 am |
  15. John

    Obama's jokes were pretty good. A really clever person, a Samuel Clemens for example, might ad hoc such things himself, but I suspect not ALL of Obama's writers were on furlough. But good lines, to whoever wrote them. I especially liked Joe Biden's purported interest in being pope. Now THAT's entertaining.

    March 10, 2013 05:21 am at 5:21 am |
  16. Abraham V.Sheriff

    I have no comment but to send thanks to President Obama and his team for their work to resolve the Budget problem what is known as Sequester.
    Thanks !

    March 10, 2013 05:28 am at 5:28 am |
  17. jeremy

    If the title holds truth... what I find ridiculous is why we have a joke writer on the government payroll for the president.. this is waste.. I think useless jobs should be cut, I am sure the country will run just fine without a joke writer..

    March 10, 2013 05:48 am at 5:48 am |
  18. Zoglet

    wow – some president makes an unfunny joke. Should I care?

    March 10, 2013 05:53 am at 5:53 am |
  19. CaKe

    All the problems in our nation together having dinner. How nice. Pointless news!

    March 10, 2013 06:10 am at 6:10 am |
  20. aaron

    What a pathetic excuse for a president we have. He created the sequester and then uses it whenever he can to make sure the people can't visit him nor can he get good jokes written. Instead they have money to expand their endless war on liberty and other things. This obamanation of a joke of a president should just go ahead and kill us already... we are over it.

    March 10, 2013 06:11 am at 6:11 am |
  21. Dave

    Now that his writers are on furlough, will he stop acting like a joke?

    March 10, 2013 06:17 am at 6:17 am |
  22. josh rogen

    it's good every once in a while for the politicians and their media lap dogs to take a break from lying to the american people and take a day to slap each other on the back and share an expensive meal. sure 41.6% of working aged Americans are unemployed, and the nation's economy continues to flounder, but as long as they can still joke about it. it can't be that bad; can it?

    March 10, 2013 06:21 am at 6:21 am |
  23. questionlol

    "I’m grateful for all the journalists who do one of the toughest jobs there is with integrity and insight and dedication and a sense of purpose that goes beyond a business model or a news cycle,"

    Beyond a business model, eh? What news source is he referring to?

    March 10, 2013 06:23 am at 6:23 am |
  24. Natch

    Nice to see he thinks the furloughs are a joke. Not that it would affect Mr Millionaire, but it's really too bad he can't feel the economic pinch himself.

    March 10, 2013 06:33 am at 6:33 am |
  25. liberal disease

    he forces people out of their jobs to make political points than laughs about it...he is hysterical, i loved his joke about not having as much shovel ready jobs as he thought after blowing 800 billion of out tax dollars. He and his wife live the his life and we suffer...this guy has no moral compass

    March 10, 2013 07:03 am at 7:03 am |
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