Bush, stars headline reporters’ dinner


WASHINGTON (AP) – The political and celebrity worlds were joining forces to honor journalists for their coverage of the White House and the downfall of a corrupt congressman.

Continuing a tradition begun by Calvin Coolidge, President Bush planned to attend the annual dinner Saturday that is hosted by the White House Correspondents’ Association.

“I will see you all tomorrow night, I guess,” Bush told reporters at the White House on Friday. “Looking forward to it. I hope you are, as well.”

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

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

Expected to join ABC were former Ambassador Joseph Wilson and his wife, Valerie Plame, the 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 Ray Nagin; tennis player Anna Kournikova; and Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.

There was also talk that George Clooney, speaking at a Darfur rally near the Capitol Sunday, might make an appearance.

The award winners announced earlier this month are:

-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.

Riechmann was recognized for breaking the news of Bush’s choice of John Roberts for the Supreme Court. Moran was cited for his broadcast coverage of 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 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 AP Radio.

On the Net:

White House Correspondents’ Association: http://www.whca.net

AP-ES-04-29-06 1324EDT