President Barack Obama speaks as Luther, his translator, played by Keegan-Michael Key, gestures during the annual White House Correspondents Dinner in 2015. The annual affair, known to beltway insiders as "nerd prom," will be held Saturday. File Photo by Olivier Douliery/UPI | License Photo
WASHINGTON, April 29 (UPI) -- It is almost time again for the annual gathering of journalists, politicians, athletes and celebrities known inside the Beltway as "nerd prom" -- and to the rest of the country as the White House Correspondents Dinner.
The annual Washington event offers the president and the emcee, a prominent comedian, the chance to skewer the press corps and politicians in a comedic roast-like fashion. President Barack Obama has participated in the event each of the last seven years. At times, he's used the correspondents dinner to throw some sharp elbows at political opponents -- albeit with a smile.
One potential target who will not be attending this year's event is Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump, who has attended before and been the butt of jokes in the past. Trump said he was invited to attend as a guest by "every single group of media available to mankind" but declined.
Trump attended the 2011 dinner, before he became a candidate for president, and said he had a "great time" despite press accounts afterward that described him as "miserable" after Obama pilloried him from the podium over Trump's skepticism about Obama's birthplace and citizenship.
"I had a great time. I was very honored by all of the attention," Trump said of the event. "The president told joke after joke and it was good. They were all very nice and delivered nicely and I had a great time and told the press. For four years, I've read what a miserable time I had."
He added, "The press is dishonest. If the press would be honest, I'd go because I'd have a good time. ... But no matter how good a time I had, the press would say, 'Donald Trump was miserable.' What would I need that for?"
During the 2011 event, Obama entered to the tune of pro wrestler Hulk Hogan's theme music, "Real American" -- set to a video flashing his birth certificate.
Later he pledged to release his official "birth video" -- and cut to a clip from the Disney movie The Lion King, referencing the questions Trump raised over his Kenyan heritage.
Obama then trained his fire on the media: "I want to tell the Fox News table, that was a joke. That was not my official birth video. It was a children's cartoon. If you don't believe me, call Disney. They have the long form version."
Trump is not alone among candidates who appear likely to skip the dinner this year. The only candidate from either side to confirm he will attend is Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who will go as a guest of CBS. Hillary Clinton, Ted Cruz and John Kasich have not said whether they will take time off the campaign trail on Saturday to return to Washington for the affair.
This year's host for the evening will be Comedy Central's Larry Wilmore, host of "The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore."
Wilmore, who is black, was already previewing his material.
"I like Obama a lot," he told CBS. "But remember, I only supported him because he's black so I can attack his positions all I want."
The event is officially a fundraiser for scholarships for journalism students and to recognize journalists' accomplishments. Tickets are $300 per person or $3,000 per table and only available to members of the White House Correspondents Association.