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Paul Ryan cracks jokes, gets serious at congressional correspondents dinner

House Speaker Paul Ryan showed Wednesday night that he can still make light of things amid the chaos on Capitol Hill at the 73rd Congressional Correspondents Dinner hosted by the Radio & Television Correspondents Association.

"The reason I wanted to come by is because I have seen your latest approval ratings," the Wisconsin Republican joked, telling reporters to "keep your heads up" amid dismal public approval ratings of the press. According to Gallup, public trust in mass media sunk to a new low of 32 percent in September. Things, Ryan said, could be worse.

"They could be my approval ratings," Ryan joked. 

Ryan lamented that "Chuck and Nancy" -- Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, 66, and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, 77 -- could not be present with him. Lately, Mr. Trump, 71, has taken to calling the pair "Chuck and Nancy." 

"Apparently it's bingo night at the White House tonight," Ryan said. 

Ryan also joked about why Rep. Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee looking into any ties between Trump associates and Russia, couldn't be present. 

"That guy's got a really really big job," Ryan said. "You think those five-to-seven-minute hits on MSNBC are going to make themselves?"

After Ryan roasted the president last week at a different event and said he checks the president's Twitter feed to see what tweets he will pretend don't exist, the speaker said Mr. Trump called him the next morning "pretty early on." Apparently, he'd seen the jokes on TV, and liked them.

"The president watches TV?" Ryan joked, a reference in part to the president's frequent tweets about whatever Fox News is covering — particularly if it's coverage about him. 

But Ryan took a more serious tone towards the end of his speech, while the president decries the media as "fake news." Ryan said the United States' system of government relies on a free and open press.  

"Our republic does not work without what you do," he said. 

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