Obama, celebs turn out for D.C. gala

Correspondents dinner draws Spielberg, Kutcher, Portman

WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama mocked his own administration and gave playful digs at his critics and Republicans at a black-tie dinner Saturday night attended by a mix of politicians, celebrities and journalists.

The Republican party was a favorite target for Obama, speaking at the annual White House Correspondents' Assn. dinner.

Former Vice President Dick Cheney couldn't make the dinner, Obama joked, because he was writing his memoir, "How to shoot friends and interrogate people." It was a reference to Cheney's support of harsh interrogation and his accidental shooting of a hunting companion.

But Obama targeted his own miscues as well. "No president in history has ever named three commerce secretaries this quickly," Obama said. The president's two top choices for the position dropped out.

The president wasn't the only one to tell jokes.

Tart-tongued comic Wanda Sykes, the dinner's entertainer, poked fun at Obama giving the Queen of England an iPhone during a recent visit. "What are you going to give the Pope, a Bluetooth," asked Sykes. And she questioned First Lady Michelle Obama having patted the queen on the back "like she just slid into home plate -- way to go, queen!"

The $200-per-ticket dinner attracted plenty of VIPs from outside the Beltway.
Among those attending were Eva Longoria Parker, Ashton Kutcher, Christian Slater, Natalie Portman, Sting, Mariska Hargitay, Steven Spielberg and Jon Bon Jovi. Also there was Richard Phillips, who was held hostage by Somali pirates after his cargo ship was attacked.

Obama noted that he and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton had been political rivals, but he assured the audience "these days, we could not be closer."

"In fact the second she got back from Mexico, she pulled me into a hug," the president said, playing off the threat of a spreading swine flu virus that has targeted Mexico the most.

Obama also turned serious and talked of the financially struggling media industry, praising journalists for holding government officials accountable. "A government without newspapers, a government without a tough and vibrant media of all sorts is not an option for the United States of American," he said.

Proceeds from the dinner will help feed the hungry and fund journalism scholarships. The association will donate more than $23,000 to the charity So Others Might Eat, including money raised by skipping formal dessert for guests.
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