President Barack Obama poked fun at himself and what he called a hard year, but aimed his most caustic humour at a Washington gridlock when the political and media elites gathered at the annual White House Correspondents' Association dinner.

"In 2008 my slogan was, 'Yes we can'. In 2013, it was control-alt-delete," Mr Obama joked to an audience also studded with film and television stars.

"At one point, things got so bad the 47% called Mitt Romney to apologise," he said, referring to 2012 presidential campaign scandal in which the Republican candidate was secretly taped saying 47% of Americans have become reliant on government handouts.

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More than 2000 guests packed the ballroom of the Washington Hilton, where the capital's political and media worlds cosy up or collide every year in what is described as lubricated goodwill punctuated by a dash of glamour on loan from Hollywood.

The association is marking its 100th year.