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Journos Gather at Ritz for RTNDF First Amendment Dinner

Last night was the First Amendment Awards Dinner at the Ritz Carlton, the 19th annual hosted by RTNDF.

The dinner was emceed by MSNBC’s Chris Matthews, who started by thanking his wife Kathleen (away on a skiing trip), his “ambassador to the human race.” He also thanked Rod Blagojevich, Sen. Roland Burris and Rahm Emanuel for producing numbers for Hardball and MSNBC. (A dinner guest points out to us that Matthews was still wearing his Hardball makeup.)

CNN’s Jack Womack presented the first award of the evening to colleague Susan Grant, the First Amendment Service Award. Grant joked she was sure “the board had run out of deserving journalists.”

ABC’s Charlie Gibson and Sam Donaldson brought a comedy act to present the Leonard Zeidenberg Award to Cokie Roberts. Some of their back-and-forth… Charlie: “Get your hands off me… I’m somewhat perturbed I have to share the podium with Sam.” Sam: “Women like older men- that’s me,” and Charlie: “Much older.”

Donaldson introduced a story about Roberts saying, “you can check this story, though I wouldn’t, it’s a good story,” to which Gibson replied, “like most of Sam’s stories.” Donaldson went on to tell about the time on the This Week with David Brinkey that John Tower asked what a womanizer was and Cokie looked at him and said, “I think most women know it when they see it, Senator.”

At her last dinner, RTNDF President Barbara Cochran honored the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation with a special award, which was accepted by Alberto Ibarguen. To much applause, Cochran called prompt freeing of detained journalist Roxana Saberi in Iran.

And the last award of the evening was presented to Google’s Chairman and CEO Eric Schmidt by PBS’s Judy Woodruff, as the whole room pondered, what would we do without Google?

In attendance: Dana Perino, CNN’s newly acquired State of the Union EP Michelle Jaconi, sitting next to Gloria Borger, who received a warm hello from Linda Douglass, Rome Hartman deep in conversation with Sam Donaldson at the cocktail hour, Mike Allen blackberrying away outside the Ritz, Lara Logan back from maternity leave, Google’s Bob Boorstin, Mark Whitaker with new deputy bureau chief Antoine Sanfuentes, David Bass, Emily Heil, Karen Travers and so on.

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