Roy Wood Jr defends media, takes on 'king of scandals' Trump and Biden's 'naps' at correspondents' dinner
Comedian Roy Wood, Jr. packed his White House Correspondents’ Association (WHCA) dinner punchlines with barbs aimed at President Biden and the “king of scandals” former President Trump, while also roasting Tucker Carlson, Don Lemon and GOP lawmakers including Rep. George Santos (N.Y.). But, he struck a serious tone when saying much of the public can’t...
Comedian Roy Wood, Jr. packed his White House Correspondents’ Association (WHCA) dinner punchlines with barbs aimed at President Biden and the “king of scandals” former President Trump, while also roasting Tucker Carlson, Don Lemon and GOP lawmakers including Rep. George Santos (N.Y.). But, he struck a serious tone when saying much of the public can’t afford some of the media’s "most essential, fair and nuanced reporting.”
“I think you left some of your classified documents up here,” Wood, the night’s headliner, quipped to Biden as he shuffled some papers on the dais at Saturday’s dinner, a reference to Department of Justice officials finding materials with classified markings at the commander in chief’s Delaware home and in a former office earlier this year.
The “Daily Show” correspondent followed Biden’s remarks at the dinner, throwing out jokes to a sold-out ballroom of journalists, lawmakers and celebrities at the annual Correspondents’ soiree at the Washington Hilton hotel.
“The often overlooked purpose of tonight's dinner… is to award scholarships to students who have shown great achievements in journalism,” Wood said.
“I'd like to stop right now and congratulate tonight's top scholarship recipient: Arizona State senior George Santos,” he said of the House freshman, who’s facing multiple investigations for lying about his background.
But the 44-year-old comic quickly turned his attention to two of TV’s former biggest stars, Fox News’s Tucker Carlson and CNNs’ Don Lemon. Both personalities were dropped by their respective employers within less than an hour of each other earlier this week.
“Tonight we are all unified under one thing, and that’s scandal,” Wood said. “Scandals have been devouring careers this year.”
Mentioning Carlson’s firing to cheers from some in the crowd, Wood said, “Some people are celebrating, but to Tucker’s staff I want you to know that I know what you’re feeling. I work at ‘The Daily Show,’ so I too have been blindsided by the sudden departure of the host of a fake news program,” he said. Trevor Noah exited “The Daily Show” in December.
“We gotta get Tucker back on the air, Mr. President, because right now there are millions of Americans that don’t even know why they hate you,” Wood added, as Biden grinned broadly.
Speaking about Lemon, Wood, who was a broadcast journalism major at Florida A&M University before going into comedy, said, “How funny is it that you work in the news, then watch on the news that you got fired from the news?”
“There’s too many Trump scandals to keep up with,” Wood said of the 45th president.
“Can we just all be honest and say that the Trump arrest didn’t hit like we thought it was going to hit?” Wood said of the ex-president’s arraignment in a New York courthouse earlier this month on 34 felony counts, adding “the Trump arrest was like a pot brownie that you ate four hours ago. Do I feel justice? This doesn’t feel like justice."
“Let me try one of them Georgia arraignment brownies, maybe that’ll hit,” the comedian said as Georgia Secretary of state Brad Raffensperger (R), who was in the audience at the dinner, looked on and chuckled.
The “scandals” don’t just include Republican figures, Wood suggested.
“There’s been no scandal more damaging than the scandal of: Is Joe Biden awake?”
“Say what you want about our president, but when you wake up from that nap, work gets done,” Wood jested.
“[He] might doze off but then it's …’Infrastructure bill…student loan forgiveness…did we free Brittney Griner? Free Brittney Griner!’” Wood said, as he impersonated Biden.
Griner, the WNBA star detained for nearly 10 months in Russia who as ITK first exclusively reported was at the dinner as a guest of CBS News, hunched over her table appearing to be in a fit of laughter.
Wood dropped the one-liners as he denounced “anti-CRT” Republicans who he charged couldn’t define CRT, or critical race theory.
“Anti-CRT policies are an attack on Black history and an attempt to erase the contributions of Black people from the history books,” Wood said to applause.
“And a lot of Black people wouldn’t mind that erasure as long as that Black person is Clarence Thomas,” Wood said of the conservative Supreme Court justice.
Some in the audience jeered when Wood mentioned anti-drag legislation and gun violence.
“Drag queens are not at a school to groom your kids. Stop it,” Wood said. “And even if they were, most of them kids are going to get shot at school.”
“Don’t groan, pass legislation,” Wood chided the lawmakers in attendance at the black-tie fete.
He also struck a more sober tone as he discussed the state of journalism amid nationwide cuts to local newsrooms and paywalls.
“The industry that covers all of these scandals, isn't immune to them their self. The issue with good media is that most people can't afford that. All the essential fare and nuance reporting, it's all stuck behind a paywall,” he said.
“People can't afford rent. People can't afford food — not healthy food. They can't afford an education. They damn sure can't afford to pay for the truth,” Wood said. “Say what you want about a conspiracy theory, but at least it's affordable.”
“I understand that we have to put the stuff behind the paywall because creating the truth is important,” Wood said, calling journalists’s work “important, essential, and dangerous.” Wood noted that his father was “an embedded reporter on the front lines with Black platoons in Vietnam” during the war.
“How do we fix this?” Wood said of the economic woes plaguing the industry. “I don't know. I'm a comedian,” he said to laughs. “But local reporting is very important.”
Wood had vowed to make his comedic remarks a bipartisan affair, in an interview with ITK shortly ahead of the dinner.
“I think you have to take shots at lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, otherwise you’re not honoring the job,” Wood, 44, said before the Correspondents’ event. “I don’t think that we can sit here and act like both parties have been perfect in their duties of serving the American people,” he said at the time.
“I think it’s fair to come into this with fair critiques about politicians, also the role media plays,” Wood said, “but more importantly the blind spot that I think a lot of the American public have to the media.”