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White House reporters vote for Jay Leno

 Obama and Leno

Long before a late-night soap opera erupted between Conan O'Brien and Jay Leno, the White House Correspondents' Assn. reached out to Leno to headline its glittery May 1 black-tie dinner. You know, that annual mix of red-carpet celebrities and political insiders gathered to hear President Obama make fun of them.

Described by Washington Post TV critic Lisa Morales as "this week's most unpopular stand-up comic," Leno finally accepted this month. He's no stranger to the event -- doing the comedic honors in 2004, 2000 and 1987. The last time he appeared, Leno aimed many jabs at John Kerry , then the Democrats' presidential candidate and now known as the senior colleague of Massachusetts' new political star, Republican Scott Brown.

-- "John Kerry stands by his claim that some foreign leaders have told him they hope he wins. ... And of course President Bush said, 'Yeah, well, certain Supreme Court justices have told me I'm going to win.'"

-- On Kerry: "He can become the first president in history ever to deliver the State of the Union — and the rebuttal.''

One other new wrinkle in this year's dinner. WHCA President Ed Chen, a former Times staffer now with Bloomberg, says this year's event will be the greenest in its 96-year history. To reduce the dinner's carbon impact, the association is talking about using paper products and encouraging guests to car pool and drive hybrids

There will likely still be groupies and paparazzi. After all, what's a gala White House event without a red carpet?

-- Johanna Neuman

Photo: President Obama and Jay Leno on the "Tonight Show." Credit: Gerald Herbert / Associated Press

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About the Columnist
A veteran foreign and national correspondent, Andrew Malcolm has served on the L.A. Times Editorial Board and was a Pulitzer finalist in 2004. He is the author of 10 nonfiction books and father of four. Read more.
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