The Gridiron Club and Foundation – founded in 1885 as The Gridiron Club of Washington, D.C. – is the oldest and one of the most prestigious journalistic organizations in Washington, D.C. Its 65 active members represent major newspapers, news services, news magazines and broadcast networks. Membership is by invitation only and has traditionally been offered almost exclusively to Washington newspaper bureau chiefs. Recently, however, it has begun opening its doors to such non-newspaper media figures as Tim Russert of NBC News, Bob Schieffer of CBS News, Mara Liasson of National Public Radio, and Judy Woodruff of PBS.
In 2008, the club merged with its charitable arm, the Gridiron Foundation, to form the Gridiron Club and Foundation. It is a 501(c)(3) organization and makes annual charitable contributions and provides scholarships to a number of journalistic organizations and colleges, including the University of Maryland, George Washington University, and Norwich College.
The presidency of the club rotates annually. In 2013, it was held by Chuck Lewis, of Hearst Newspapers. In 2011, it was held by Susan Page, USA Today's Washington bureau chief. Page's husband, Carl Leubsdorf of the Dallas Morning News, had been president in 2008, making them the first married couple to have each served as Gridiron president.
Gridiron Club Dinner
The Gridiron Club is best known for its annual dinner which traditionally features the United States Marine Band, along with satirical musical skits by the members and remarks by the President of the United States and representatives of each political party. The skits and speeches by various politicians are expected to be self-deprecating or otherwise sharply comedic.
Through 2016, every U.S. President since 1885 except Grover Cleveland has spoken at the dinner. (President Barack Obama attended the 2011 dinner after missing both the 2009 and 2010 dinners. In addition, he spoke as a senator in 2006.) Bill and Hillary Clinton have both spoken at Club dinners, and the 2008 dinner marked the sixth time that President George W. Bush attended during his presidency. The 2013 dinner was the 125th Gridiron Club and Foundation Dinner, but technically only the fifth Club and Foundation dinner (following the 2008 merger of the Club and the Foundation into one entity).
The dinner is held in the spring, usually in March. Between 1945 and 2006, the dinner was held at the Capital Hilton. In 2007, it moved to the Renaissance Washington. It is one of the few remaining large-scale, white-tie affairs in Washington. It offers a neutral ground on which members of the press and various elected officials and political operatives can break bread together. The only time the club held its dinner and skits outside Washington was in November 1967 when it was held in Williamsburg,Virginia.
As is also true of the White House Correspondents' Association Dinner and the Radio and Television Correspondents' Association Dinner, the Gridiron Club Dinner has been subject to criticism that it encourages journalists to engage in undue coziness with the political officials they are supposed to fairly cover, and also that the public spectacle of "playing footsie" with reporters' main subjects is bringing the political press into disgrace.
- Radio and Television Correspondents' Association
- White House Correspondents' Association
- National Press Club
- Andrew Glass (April 1, 2007). "Cheney Yuks It Up With the Press". The Politico. Retrieved 2015-03-18.
- "Gridiron Foundation Establishes Five Journalism Scholarships at UM". Philip Merrill College of Journalism. Archived from the original on 2003-04-21. Retrieved 2015-03-18.
- Andrew Glass (March 10, 2007). "Clinton & Clinton Inc.". The Politico. Retrieved 2015-03-18.
- "Obama Scores With Gridiron Club Dinner". whcinsider.com. White House Correspondents Insider. March 11, 2013. Retrieved 2017-03-05.
- Anne Schroeder (March 28, 2007). "Shenanigans". The Politico. Retrieved 2015-03-18.
- Hamilton Nolan (April 3, 2007). "Joke is on the press at annual DC dinners". PRWeek. Retrieved 2015-03-18.
- POLITICO STAFF (2013-03-09). "President Obama Gridiron Club dinner speech 2013 transcript". The Politico. Retrieved 2015-03-18.
- Ben Terris (2015-03-15). "Here are President Obama's full remarks from the Gridiron Club Dinner". Washington Post. Retrieved 2015-03-18.
- Remarks by the President at the Gridiron Dinner (March 9, 2013)
- "Obama gets laughs at first Gridiron Club dinner as president", The Washington Post (March 13, 2011)
- Guide to Gridiron Club of Washington, D.C. records, 1885-1906 housed at the University of Kentucky Libraries Special Collections Research Center