- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 30, 2006

It was twice the fun for members of the White House Correspondents’ Association and guests last night when President Bush invited a look-alike, sound-alike sidekick to poke fun at himself and fellow politicians.

“Ladies and gentlemen, I feel chipper tonight. I survived the White House shake-up,” the president said.

But impersonator Steve Bridges stole many of the best lines as he expressed the president’s supposed inner thoughts, referring to Vice President Dick Cheney and his hunting accident among other topics.

“Speaking of suspects, where is the great white hunter?” Mr. Bridges asked, later adding: “He shot the only trial lawyer in the country who supports me.”

Mr. Bush, joined by first lady Laura Bush, continued a tradition begun by President Calvin Coolidge in attending the correspondents’ dinner.

The featured entertainer was Stephen Colbert, whose Comedy Central show, “The Colbert Report,” often lampoons the Washington establishment.

Among those ribbed were the outgoing White House press secretary, Scott McClellan, and his successor, Tony Snow.

Yet it’s the Who’s Who of power and celebrity in the audience — invited by news media organizations to their dinner tables — that draws much of the attention.

Joining ABC were former Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV and his wife, Valerie Plame, the former CIA officer at the heart of a leak investigation that has reached deep into the White House.

Others on the guest list included rapper-actor Ludacris, whose real name is Chris Bridges; James Denton, the hunky plumber on “Desperate Housewives” on ABC; “Dancing With the Stars” winner Drew Lachey; New Orleans Mayor C. Ray Nagin; tennis player Anna Kournikova; and Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.

Award winners honored at the dinner were:

• Deb Riechmann of the Associated Press and Terry Moran of ABC News, Merriman Smith Awards, the top journalism award for White House reporting under deadline pressure.

Ms. Riechmann was recognized for breaking the news of Mr. Bush’s choice of Judge John G. Roberts Jr. for the Supreme Court. Mr. Moran was cited for his broadcast coverage of Mr. Bush’s first visit to areas hit by Hurricane Katrina.

• Carl Cannon of the National Journal, the Aldo Beckman Award for his profile of presidential adviser and speechwriter Michael Gerson. The award is given for repeated excellence in White House reporting.

• Marcus Stern and Jerry Kammer of the Copley News Service, the Edgar A. Poe Award for a series of stories on Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham, who resigned in disgrace and pleaded guilty to accepting $2.4 million in bribes. The Poe award recognizes excellence in news of national and regional importance.

The association was established in 1914 as a bridge between the press corps and the White House. The current president is Mark Smith of Associated Press Radio and Television.

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