The 17th Annual White House Correspondents’ Association Garden Brunch was a historic one in that it marked the last year it was held at the home of longtime Washington TV executive and CEO of Haddad Media–Tammy Haddad.
Attendees mingled outdoors in a Palisades location overlooking the Potomac, meeting old friends and connecting with new ones before the main event in the Hilton ballroom that evening.
Guests included entertainment luminaries like Chevy Chase, Patricia Arquette, Kim Kardashian, Dana Delaney, Cheryl Hines, the Jonas Brothers, Demi Lovato, Joe Mazzello, Omar EppsAdrien Grenier.
The Fourth Estate was well represented with guests such as Fox’s Rupert Murdoch, Wolf Blitzer, Arianna Huffington, David Gregory, Andrea Mitchell, Bret Baier and Gayle King.
And the event once again honored two important causes – ending maternal mortality through Mothers Day Every Day (a partnership of the White Ribbon Alliance for Safe Motherhood and CARE), and supporting research for epilepsy through CURE Epilepsy.
Hundreds gathered at the Newseum Wednesday evening to recognize the scientific work of CURE Epilepsy, raise awareness, and to honor 2010 Friend of CURE Awardee, longtime television producer and WHCInsider’s own Tammy Haddad.
Susan Axelrod, Chair and founding member of Citizens United for Research in Epilepsy, was on hand to mark the special occasion. Axelrod and Connie Milstein, CURE supporter and noted philanthropist, co-hosted the event.
Connie Milstein, a CURE board member, announced the Axelrod Milstein Challenge Grant. It is a $500,000 two-year program. CURE Challenge Grants are CURE’s most prestigious, and fuel the much needed research to find the key to the cure of this dreaded disease.
“Susan works tirelessly to find a cure for epilepsy and seizure disorders. Like many families across the world, the Axelrods live with this disease every day, but their work, their strength, and their optimism give hope to so many, as they fight and live for a cure,” said Milstein.
Susan Axelrod described the lack of progress and the difficult research road ahead: “With so many troops returning from war with traumatic brain injuries and epilepsy, the need is more urgent now.”
Axelrod, along with her husband David, was desperate to find answers when their own daughter Lauren was diagnosed with uncontrollable epilepsy at 7 months old. Twelve years ago, CURE was founded by Axelrod and two other mothers around a kitchen table. Many members of the CURE family were on hand last night and gathered on stage for a group photo and greeted with a round of applause.
The room was a living tribute to CURE and Ms. Haddad, as devoted friends from both sides of the aisle raised a glass to what many have called a “force.” Haddad used her annual White House Correspondents Weekend Brunch to raise awareness for CURE after seeing Susan and Lauren Axelrod on the cover of PARADE magazine, and later on NBC’s The Today Show.
“I chased her down for weeks to get her to host the Correspondents Brunch because I wanted to help. Here was a chance to use a HUGE platform for an important message,” said Haddad. “What did she tell us? No parent, no child, no family — no person should have to suffer and experience the pain of epilepsy. That is her goal…and since she is unstoppable we know she will reach that goal.”
Cabinet appearances by HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, Dr. Howard Koh, NIH’s Story Landis and Dr. Tony Fauci.
The audience roared as a video roast of Haddad began with David Gregory anchoring a “Meet The Press” open lamenting the lack of agreement on anything in Washington except in friendship and respect for Haddad. Also in the video: ABC’s Jake Tapper from the White House, Greta Van Susteren and John Coale. Jon Meacham roasted the longtime network and cable news producer by reminding the audience that Christopher Buckley put her in his novel “Thank You for Smoking.” Haddad’s former MSNBC’s colleagues, the “Morning Joe” team – Joe Scarborough, Mika Brzezinski, Willie Geist, Mark Halperin and Harold Ford taking turns trying to figure out what award Haddad hadn’t won yet while praising her work for CURE.
The surprise ending was a song written and performed for Haddad by Glee superstars Matthew Morrison and Jane Lynch.
Among those there to help celebrate: Rima al Sabah, the Kuwaiti Ambassador’s wife; British Ambassador to the US Nigel and Julia Sheinwald; AFT President Randi Weingarten; Tom Oliphant, Mary Louise Oates and Robert Shrum.
Politicos aplenty including Bloomberg’s Kevin Sheekey, Joel and Lisa Benenson, Jim Margolis, Susan Sher, Stephanie Cutter, Julianna Smoot, Dan Pfieffer, Eric Lesser and Jen Psaki.
Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard fresh from a Supreme Court appearance, along with crowd favorite Terry McAuliffe; Tony and Heather Podesta; Podesta Group CEO Kimberly Fritts and hubby, Marion Turner; Holly Page; Bruce Reed and Bonnie LePard.
Media biggies included Wolf Blitzer, Howard Fineman and Amy Nathan, Lynn Sweet, Betsy Fischer (producer of the surprise video), Andrea Mitchell, Gloria Borger, Roger Simon, Annie Groer and Hilary Rosen.
Both republican and democratic political operatives included Bob Stevenson, Jane Oates, Dan Meyers, Erica Elliot, Rich Galen and Tom Synhorst.
Designed by Jacquie Bloom, the Newseum’s Knight Center was aglow in CURE red. Guests enjoyed the pomegranate martini ice luge and the ice cream sundae bar.
CURE is in the middle of their Every Dollar Counts Every seizure Matters campaign. To donate CLICK on CUREEpilepsy.org.
2010 WHC Garden Brunch: Story Landis, Susan Axelrod, David Axelrod
While at the 2010 White House Correspondents’ Garden Brunch, guests were asked to share the best advice from their mother in honor of Mothers Day Every Day and CURE Epilepsy.
Some of the answers from the media, business, and political elite who stepped across the lawn at the 18th annual brunch are posted below – and be sure to WATCH the video of the tribute to two important causes which affects the lives and health of families all across the globe: maternal mortality and epilepsy.
Susan Axelrod, Founder & Chair of CURE Epilepsy spoke from the heart about the disease and the desperate need to support research and find a cure. Axelrod, the honorary co-chair of the brunch, was joined on stage by “Glee” star Matthew Morrison, People’s cover boy Chace Crawford, and HBO’s “The Pacific” star Joe Mazzello, as well as the Jonas Brothers and Demi Lovato, who showed their support for CURE Epilepsy and MDED by signing a giant Mother’s Day card.
CHERYL HINES: My mom taught me to have fun in life. That’s what it’s about!
RUPERT MURDOCH: My mother told me to look after my sisters!
DANA DELANEY: Tell the truth – it’s easier to remember
STEVE WEBER: Swallow your spit
SUSAN SHER, First Lady’s Chief of Staff: 1. Always wear lipstick 2.
It’s just as easy to fall in love with a rich man as a poor man. (I followed neither.)
WOLF BLITZER: Do the best you can!
ARIANNA HUFFINGTON: Be fearless!
NICK JONAS: Treat women with respect!
JOE JONAS: Coins are not edible!
DEMI LOVATO: Pack clean underwear!
JOE MAZZELLO, HBO’s “The Pacific”: Make it real
DAVID GREGORY: Always wear socks!
KIM KARDASHIAN: My favorite thing my mother taught me is…. To be myself
CHEVY CHASE: Make sure you shake few hands. You can get hurt.
JAYNI CHASE: Wear comfortable shoes.
PATRICIA ARQUETTE: Get quiet and ask God to let you feel who you are …your true self.
BRET BAIER: Always open a door and pull out a chair for a lady!
ANDREA MITCHELL: Watch out when you cross the street
President Obama in his speech to the RTCA got right to the heart of Washington’s journalist dinner rivalry, saying he was on hand to “Tell jokes that weren’t funny enough for me to use when we did this five weeks ago,” at the White House Correspondents’ dinner (known as the Senior Prom to the RTCA’s Junior Prom.) Then again, he said, twisting the knife deeper: “The jokes may not be as good but neither is the guest list.”
And later: “I think your programming is more relevant than ever before — at least that’s the impression that I get when I read the blogs.”
In his appearance before the Radio and TV correspondents at the Washington D.C. Convention Center, the President was unaccompanied by First Lady Michelle Obama on the orange and yellow rose-rimmed dais and he left at 9:20, before dinner was served. His short stay prompted some last-minute frantic juggling of the entertainment lineup, according to insiders. VP Biden wasn’t there, either, despite apparently erroneous earlier reports that he would attend. A spokeswoman said that he had a scheduling conflict.
Rachel Maddow on MSNBC, right after the speech, noted the President’s “sharp elbowed humor;” a few tweets from the dinner suggested that his humor was “underappreciated” by the audience. He cracked himself up several times, however.
The biggest laughs of the night came when he joked about embattled California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger competing on “I’m a Celebrity….Get Me Out of Here,” then added: “That’s how I feel about tonight.” The dinner, he said, was causing him to miss “date night” with Michelle, and his plans to go for Thai food-pause-”in Bangkok.”
A joke about being in bed with NBC’s Brian Williams, whom he called a terrible house guest, was followed by a list of new TV programs that the success of “Inside the White House” had inspired, the funniest of which was TLC’s “Jon & Kate plus Peter Orszag.”
Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski
There was also a mild jab at NBC White House Correspondent Chuck Todd for having the style of a TV correspondent and “the facial hair of a radio correspondent.” To MSNBC’s Mika Brzezinski, he said: “We both have partners named Joe who used to be in Congress and don’t know when to stop talking.” CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, he noted, was “the only other man in America with his own situation room,” and it was cooler than the President’s, which he said, was unable “to generate the bandwidth to turn Larry Summers into a hologram.”
Random jokes poked fun at his own Administration, including Richard Holbrooke, whom he alleged sprayed WD-40 that caused Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s elbow-breaking fall. He announced a “new” plan to rescue the auto business, telling dinner guests to look under their seat, a la Oprah, because everyone was getting a car company. Fox, he said, would get AIG.
Looking relieved that his speech was over, the President ended his remarks with a serious tribute to the work of the press, noting “I am here tonight because I appreciate the role you do.” He got the traditional standing ovation at the beginning and end.
A few more guest lists are now known for tonight’s RTCA dinner
CNN Anchor Wolf Blitzer will attend the RTCA dinner
CBS, which is hosting a pre-party at the Convention Center, will have, among others, RNC Chairman Michael Steele; National Security Council member Samantha Powers; Dag Vega, the White House’s director of broadcast media and Lebanese Ambassador Antoine Chedid.
CNN, which took a full 15 tables, is hosting CIA Director Leon Panetta, U.S. Solicitor General Elena Kagan; White House Communications Director Anita Dunn and, as it usually does, a number of military folks, including Army Lt. General Francis Kearney.
There will be a full roster of CNN talent there, too, including Wolf Blitzer, Ed Henry, Suzanne Malveaux, Dan Lothian, Joe Johns, Heidi Collins, Brianna Keilar, Gloria Borger, Bill Schneider, Kate Bolduan, Barbara Starr, Chris Lawrence, Lisa Sylvester, Tom Foreman, Jim Acosta, Howard Kurtz and Jeffrey Toobin.