Protesters Call for White House Correspondents’ Dinner Boycott

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WASHINGTON — “You look beautiful in your blood-stained gown,” a protester shouted at a finely dressed woman, opulent in heels and done up to perfection as she made her way to the Washington Hilton, the site of this year’s annual White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner on Saturday, April 27. 

The White House Correspondents’ Dinner is Washington, D.C.’s hallmark event — a night where top Beltway journalists mingle with politicians and White House staff, and the president makes jokes. This year’s event was the target of a protest aimed at calling attention to the 97 journalists killed so far in Gaza since Israel began its siege on the territory. 

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The protest, held in Kalorama Park, drew hundreds, and merged with rally-goers stationed at the entrance of the hotel. Press vests covered in red paint and bearing the names of the journalists killed in Gaza, since the start of the war between Israel and Hamas, were displayed on the road in front of the venue. Police formed a perimeter around the hotel, creating walkways and access roads for prominent media personalities and politicos to access the dinner. 

Those who braved the trek on foot were followed by gaggles of protesters, who called for them to “just turn around,” and boycott the event in solidarity with the Palestinian Journalists Syndicate and Palestinian journalists outside of Gaza who have called for their American colleagues to skip the event. 

“Coward,” “you’re complicit,” and “you’re a fucking liar” were among the words Rolling Stone witnessed being hurled at those dressed to the nines as they strolled by to enter the event. Police physically blocked members of the press and protesters from approaching attendees on some sidewalks. 

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President Joe Biden, who will speak at the event this evening, has faced growing protests in recent months over his continued legislative support for Israel’s war in Gaza, which has killed more than 34,000 Palestinians and put the population at imminent risk of famine. 

Earlier this week, Biden signed legislation granting $26 billion in emergency aid to Israel, including $14 billion in military assistance. Earlier this month, after Israeli airstrikes killed seven World Central Kitchen aid workers in Gaza, dozens of House Democrats had urged Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken to pause weapons transfers to Israel until a full investigation of the airstrike had been conducted.

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Organizers chose to protest the White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner to force “the media establishment to reckon with its complicity in genocide and the targeting of their colleagues.” The coalition is also calling on the Biden administration to seek an immediate cease-fire and an end to the “occupation in Palestine.”

On Saturday, former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro was confronted by protesters on the street. One demonstrator tells Rolling Stone that she told the cabinet member that he and the Democratic Party have “blood on their hands” as long as they continue supporting military aid to Israel. 

When Caitlyn Jenner arrived, she was surrounded by protesters and the press. Police opened barriers for her to circumvent the crowd and get into the event. Protesters also unfurled a Palestinian flag from the top floor of the Washington Hilton. 

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Held annually, this White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner is a longstanding tradition that brings together the White House press corps, celebrities, and the current administration for a roast of the current president and other politicos; the 2024 edition’s host is Saturday Night Live’s Colin Jost.

The protest comes on the heels of an open letter penned by “Gaza Journalists” shared on Medium, which appeals to fellow journalists to boycott the Correspondents’ dinner in solidarity. It cited the Committee to Protect Journalists’ report that more than three-quarters of the journalists and media workers killed worldwide in 2023 died in the Israel-Hamas war; most of them were Palestinian.

Mehdi Hasan, a former MSNBC anchor who recently launched his own independent news site Zeteo, announced on Friday that after many years attending the dinner, he would be boycotting the event in solidarity with Palestinian journalists. 

“I do hope the president and my colleagues in the D.C. media will recognize tonight that a record number of Palestinian journalists have been killed in Gaza while we have looked the other way,” Hasan tells Rolling Stone. “I wanted to stand in solidarity with my Palestinian counterparts in Gaza who called for American journalists to boycott the dinner tonight, because I agree with them that it just isn’t appropriate to celebrate our journalism and a free press right now with a president who is arming and funding the people killing them in record numbers.” 

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Mohammed Mhawish, a Palestinian journalist based in Gaza City, wrote in a statement provided to Rolling Stone that “Palestinian journalists face a stark reality devoid of the protection that the press vest has — or should have — in Gaza and Palestine.” 

Mhawish, who has covered the Israeli war on the ground as a reporter and writer for Al Jazeera English, adds that the White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner “disregards the sacrifices made by those who risk everything to fulfill their duty of bearing witness to their people’s suffering. It is not enough to celebrate journalistic heroism while we confront military forces armed only with a camera and pen, knowing each story could be our last.” 





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