At an after-party sponsored by MSNBC following the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, two members of the press faced off over an incident that occurred several years ago involving The O’Reilly Factor.
Fox News correspondent Jesse Watters, a former correspondent for The O’Reilly Factor, and Ryan Grim, the Huffington Post’s Washington bureau chief, mixed it up because of an incident involving another Huffington Post reporter back in 2009.
Here’s how it went down, per several witness: Grim and Watters were among a group located in a heated tent just outside the main party area. The two apparently don’t have a personal relationship, but Grim realized who Watters was and recalled a beef he had with the “O’Reilly Factor” correspondent that dated back to 2009, when Watters, known as an “ambush journalist,” had engineered an on-camera confrontation of writer Amanda Terkel, now a HuffPo colleague of Grim. Terkel’s account of the incident was headlined “I Was Followed, Harassed, And Ambushed By Bill O’Reilly’s Producer.”
Grim decided to give Watters a taste of his own medicine, whipping out his camera phone and filming him. Watters didn’t take well to this, eventually snatching the phone away from Grim and putting it in his pocket. Grim set out to retrieve it, and a scuffle ensued. No cinematic sparring or broken beer bottles, witnesses said, but the two flailed around a bit, upending a table and bumping into several people.
“Punches were definitely thrown,” said one witness.
Before any damage was done, several bystanders, including RNC executive director Sean Spicer, separated the two. Spicer said he didn’t see the lead-up to the fight and said he was just attempting to stay true to the party venue. “Just trying to keep the peace,” he said.
Watters couldn’t immediately be reached for comment, but reached for comment, Grim was unrepentant. “Ambush guy can’t take getting ambushed,” he said. “Maybe he should think about his life choices.”
As for the dinner itself, the lame jokes about Republicans, conservatives, and Donald Trump told by President Obama had a vicious edge to them:
As for the Republican National Committee: “Guests were asked if they wanted steak or fish, and a whole bunch of you wrote in Paul Ryan.”
On Ted Cruz: “He went to Hoosier country, called the hoop a basketball ring. What else is in his lexicon? Baseball sticks? Football hats? But sure, I’m the foreign one.”
He also poked fun at The Washington Post, Buzzfeed and the Boston Globe’s “Spotlight” investigation team.
The president was expected to light into Trump, the Republican presidential front-runner who famously bristled while the president roasted the mogul in person as he sat at the dinner in 2011. And he didn’t hold back.
“The guy wanted to give his hotel business and boost, and now we’re praying that Cleveland makes it through July,” Obama said. “I’m a little disappointed he wasn’t here tonight. We had so much fun last time.”
He also appeared in a pre-recorded video with former House Speaker John Boehner, discussing their mutual retirements – and pervasive nicotine habits.
Self-deprecating as the occasion requires, Obama said of himself: “In my final year my approval ratings keep going up. The last time I was this high, I was trying to decide on my major.”
“Nightly Show” host and comedian Larry Wilmore appeared to fall slightly flat compared with previous raucous acts that have followed the president. He roasted Obama on the toll his years as president have taken.
“You look terrible Mr. President … Your hair is so white it tried to punch me at a Trump rally. It’s so white it keeps saying ‘All Lives Matter.’”
Continuing a theme, he gave a “shout-out to the print media. No really, you have to shout. They’re all over 70 now.”
Once a year, Washington acknowledges the incestuous relationship between Hollywood celebrity and the political and media class. They all need each other for a variety of reasons, but if you’re looking for an explanation about what happened to our politics, look no further than the people in that room.
Both politicians and celebrities need the media, while the media needs politicians and celebrities. The unholy triad has helped turn our politics into a reality TV show, devoid of substance and wholly dependent on the vicarious thrill — and unheard of amounts of money — that celebrities can give them.
It’s a disgusting display that has no place in a republic.