Biden jokes about Trump’s mental fitness at Washington’s Gridiron dinner

By Stephanie Kelly

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -U.S. President Joe Biden took jabs on Saturday at former President Donald Trump with jokes about the mental fitness of his election opponent during a speech at the Gridiron Club dinner, a Washington tradition that began in the 1880s.

Biden’s appearance at the dinner, in which politicians and journalists trade humorous barbs in a white-tie formal affair, was the first time a president has attended in person since former President Donald Trump in 2018.

Biden, 81, recently clinched the Democratic Party’s nomination for this year’s presidential election and will face off against Trump, 77, in a rematch in November. Biden is trying to court voters, boost his low approval ratings and allay concerns that he is too old to run again.

“One candidate is too old and mentally unfit to be president. The other one is me,” Biden said on Saturday, in front of more than 650 guests who included the Taoiseach of Ireland Leo Varadkar, Amazon founder and Washington Post owner Jeff Bezos, and TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew, whose U.S. business could be banned by Biden.

Trump’s campaign did not respond to a request for comment. Trump has also questioned Biden’s mental capacity to be president.

Biden reinforced the importance of the press, which he said is not “the enemy of the people,” in stark contrast to previous remarks by Trump about the news media.

He also spoke about the war in Ukraine with Prime Minister of Estonia Kaja Kallas, who attended Saturday’s dinner. “We will not bow down, they (Ukrainians) will not bow down and I will not bow down,” Biden said.

After his speech, Biden descended to the floor and took selfies with reporters and called one guest’s mother.

Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, representing the Democratic Party at the event, also spoke on Saturday, as well as Utah Governor Spencer Cox, representing the Republican Party.

Cox, 48, joked that he was announcing his candidacy for the presidency “in 2052, when I still will be younger than both President Biden and President Trump.”

Turning more serious, he said there is a hunger among Americans for something more positive in politics.

The club’s 65 members, all representatives from news organizations, performed satirical songs and skits. One song poked fun at Biden’s and Trump’s ages to the tune of “When I’m Sixty-Four” by The Beatles.

At last year’s dinner, Mike Pence, who served as Vice President under Trump, offered a forceful rebuke of his one-time boss, saying history would hold Trump accountable for his role in the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol.

Unlike its sister event, the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner in April, the Gridiron dinner is┬ánot televised and tries to retain its yesteryear vibe with men in white tie and tails and women in long dresses.

No photos are allowed during the dinner and participants are asked not to post on social media until after it has concluded.

(Reporting by Stephanie Kelly and Steve Holland. Editing by Heather Timmons, David Gregorio and Edmund Klamann)

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