WASHINGTON (AP) — Long the subject of barbed tweets from President Donald Trump, members of the Washington press corps sharpened their wits for musical and rhetorical takedowns of the president, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and others Saturday night at the annual dinner of the Gridiron Club and Foundation.
Trump accepted an invitation to the 133rd anniversary dinner, his first given that he declined to attend last year. The event traces 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, according to prepared remarks released ahead of the event.
Cleveland skipped the dinner because "he thought our columns were filled with 'mean and cowardly lies,'" Lightman said. "He did, however, have a soft spot for 'Fox & Friends.'"
Rebuttals were scheduled from one Republican, Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas, and one Democrat, New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu.
Trump was expected to deliver remarks to the audience of about 660 journalists, media executives, lawmakers, administration officials and military officers. Hours before the event, Trump fired off a tweet at the national press saying: "Mainstream Media in U.S. is being mocked all over the world. They've gone CRAZY!" He linked to a story by a conservative pundit saying Trump and his family are victims of "unparalleled" press attacks.
The Gridiron Dinner's reputation as a night of bipartisan mirth was evidenced by those who accepted invitations, including last year's headliner, Vice President Mike Pence. Also accepting invitations were eight members of Trump's Cabinet, six senators, four House members, and presidential advisers and relatives Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, the foundation said in a statement.
By tradition the evening's musical entertainment revolved around musical skits and takeoffs of well-known songs performed by journalists pretending to be newsmakers, among them:
—Fox News host Bret Baier had a solo to the tune of "You Can't Hurry Love" as Trump's attorney, Ty Cobb. Lamenting the pace of special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation, he sang, "You can't hurry Bob."
—Co-anchor John Dickerson of CBS' "This Morning" used the song "King of the Road" to crack on Obama's life after the presidency: "Speeches for sale or rent/Hire me for your next event/If you've got lots of dough/I'm packed and set to go, you know/Two hours of holding forth costs you/More than your Ferrari's worth/On the speakers circuit now I am/King of the road."
—A cast member playing House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi turned to "I'm Against It," a song from the Marx Brothers film "Duck Soup," to explain her attitude toward Trump: "I don't know what Trump has to say/It makes no difference anyway/Whatever it is, we're against it/Even if our own side once professed it/We're against it."
—A cast member playing Hillary Clinton offered her version of the song "You're So Vain," the titled referring to her but her words aimed at the president: "You walked into my West Wing/My White House or so I thought/Your tie strategically dropped below your belt/Your hair it was apricot/I still wake up most nights screaming/With my PJs in a knot/I still have dreams - butlers serving me coffee/My White House coffee."
A charitable organization, the Gridiron Club and Foundation provides contributions for college scholarships and journalistic organizations. Active membership is limited to 65 Washington-based journalists.