Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the federal government’s high infectious illness professional, opted in opposition to going to the dinner due to the apparent hazard. Organizers required all company to be vaccinated, boosted and check destructive earlier than attending, though few wore masks apart from the serving employees. As a concession to the potential peril, Mr. Biden, who at 79 is in a high-risk age group, skipped the dinner and got here just for the talking portion of the night.

However his presence was meant to characterize a return to normalcy after Mr. Trump’s battle on the information media. Whereas Mr. Biden, like different presidents, has complained about his protection, typically snapping at reporters who ask questions he doesn’t take care of, aides mentioned he meant his resolution to take care of be a reaffirmation of his assist for a free press.

“The free press isn’t the enemy of the individuals,” Mr. Biden mentioned. “Removed from it. At your finest, you’re guardians of the reality.” He cited specifically those that have given their lives reporting from the battlefields of Ukraine, a reminder, he mentioned, of the significance of journalism.

Nonetheless, the president gently chided journalists, urging them to keep away from sensationalism and trivialization. “The First Modification grants a free press extraordinary safety,” he mentioned, “however with it comes, as a lot of , a really heavy obligation to hunt the reality as finest you possibly can, to not inflame or entertain however to light up and educate.”

“There’s unbelievable strain on you all to ship warmth as a substitute of shed mild,” he mentioned, including, “American democracy isn’t a actuality present.”

The correspondents’ affiliation made a degree of including a severe observe to the night’s festivities by honoring two Black feminine pioneers of the White Home press corps, Alice Dunnigan and Ethel Payne, who have been two of solely three African American journalists frequently reporting on the White Home within the Nineteen Fifties. It additionally paid tribute to journalists killed in Ukraine and singled out the household of Austin Tice, a reporter who was kidnapped in Syria in 2012.

However the occasion in any other case resumed its standing as Washington’s premier train in extra, bracketed by days of fancy, costly, alcohol-filled events held throughout town late into the night time, bringing members of the political class along with the journalists who cowl them and the occasional fixtures of Hollywood, Wall Avenue and different American establishments.