Climate activists plan to blockade White House Correspondents’ Dinner over Biden record on fossil fuels

Biden administration has invested in clean energy at an unprecedented rate — and backed major oil projects

Josh Marcus
San Francisco
Thursday 27 April 2023 02:09 BST
The best and most controversial jokes from the annual White House Correspondents' Dinner

Saturday’s White House Correspondents’ Association dinner is expected to feature Joe Biden, Daily Show correspondent Roy Wood Jr, and celebrities like John Legend on the guest list — as well some uninvited attendees: climate activists.

A youth-led group called Climate Defiance plans to blockage the annual roast in protest of what they say is the Biden administration’s half-hearted commitment to stopping the climate crisis.

“As the seas rise, our politicians dither. As storms surge, they delay. As people die and forests burn and ice shelves collapse, they cower,” the group said in a video announcing the action in February.

“Our ‘climate president’ pledged to end fossil fuel extraction on all federal lands,” the video continues. “Now he’s approving leases at a faster pace than Trump.”

Backers of the group, which has disrupted multiple appearances from White House climate adviser Ali Zaidi in recent weeks, say the protest action is needed to move Washington policymakers to take the kind of imminent action needed to stop the worst impacts of the climate practice.

“History and social science show that social movements, and particularly disruptive social movements, are the fastest way to create transformative change. And social movements are never popular, right? Because it’s a small group of people telling a much larger group of people that they need to change,” Margaret Klein Salamon of the Climate Emergency Fund, which funds the group, told Politico.

“When you look back at history, it’s like, which tactics of the suffragettes and the civil rights movement and ACT UP, the AIDS movement, which of those tactics were too drastic, right?” she added.

Joe Biden has a mixed record on the climate. In 2022, he helped pass the Inflation Reduction Act, the most major climate law and clean energy investment in US history, but the Biden administration has also backed the kind of large-scale fossil fuel projects climate experts say we need to transition away from, including the Mountain Valley pipeline and the $8bn Willow project in Alaska.

The White House Correspondents Dinner has been at the centre of controversy before.

Donald Trump, who was memorably skewered at the event both before and after becoming president, skipped the dinner three times.

In 2019, the final iteration of the event before it shut down in 2020 and 2021 because of the pandemic, the event was hosted by historian Ron Chernow rather than the traditional late-night comedian.

The year before that, comedian Michelle Wolf inspired a heated debate about jokes and sexism, and apologies from the White House Correspondents’ Association, after she compared then-press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders to a character from the Handmaid’s Tale series, joking that she “burns facts and then she uses that ash to create a perfect smokey eye.”

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