At Saturday evening’s White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner, President Joe Biden demanded the release of jailed Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich, who is now awaiting trial on espionage charges in Moscow’s notorious Lefortovo prison. From the podium, the president also acknowledged Mikhail Gershkovich and Ella Milman, Evan’s parents, as well as Evan’s sister, Danielle, and her husband, who were guests of the Journal.
The president called for the immediate release of Evan and Austin Tice, an American journalist who disappeared into Syrian captivity over a decade ago. The whole room of over 2,000 guests stood and clapped. All weekend, denizens of #thistown wore #freeEvan and “Free Austin Tice” pins on their tuxes and gowns. A smiling, short-haired Brittney Griner got a special shout-out from the president during the dinner. “I can hardly wait to see you back on the court, kid,” he said, grinning, before reminding her that she had promised him and his granddaughter tickets to her first game back. “I got you, I got you,” Griner responded amid the din of applause.
The message was clear. “I’m working like hell to bring them back,” Biden said of Gershkovich, Tice, and Paul Whelan, an American serving a 16-year sentence in Russia on espionage charges. Griner’s presence in the audience, and on the party circuit this weekend, was proof positive that the president was a man of his word. If Brittney had come back, then surely Evan, Austin, and Paul would, too.