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MSNBC anchor and veteran journalist Andrea Mitchell emceed the event, although C-SPAN’s Steve Scully was on hand and ready to step in if Mitchell’s reporting duties prevented her from making it on time.

“It’s been a crazy day,” Mitchell said in her opening speech. “I came directly from chasing the big stories about intelligence challenges … and the release of some of the most tightly held secrets in our government, so it’s nice to be here among friends.”

Washington has been gripped by revelations about the National Security Agency’s collection of phone and Internet records of private citizens after a former government employee leaked thousands of top-secret documents to the British newspaper The Guardian last week.

But Mitchell quickly changed gears, lightening the mood for the crowd that had just migrated from a swank cocktail hour and sat down to a filet over plates that cost north of $1,000.

As any seasoned Washingtonian knows, the easiest way to get a laugh out here is to pile on Congress, which polls lower than root canals and traffic jams in some surveys.

“Cable has given us diversity — a voice for different viewpoints, voices and creative technologies that connect us from small towns to big cities, joining us to each other and our communities and with the world,” Mitchell said. “We learn about all kinds of different places — how much would the average American know about commercial fishing in Alaska? Or alligator hunting in the Louisiana swamps? Or championship soccer in South America? Not to mention another swamp — the daily activities on the floor of the Congress.”

Brian Lamb, the founder and retired CEO of C-SPAN, didn’t let Mitchell have all of the fun at Congress’s expense. Lamb, a 2000 inductee into the Hall of Fame, was on hand to accept the Bresnan Ethics in Business Award.

“I have to admit, getting an ethics award here in Washington, D.C. is a bit of an oxymoron,” he said.

The 2013 class of inductees were Josh Sapan, who, as President and CEO of AMC Networks, has turned the channel into a powerhouse; fiber technology pioneer and Evolution Digital Chairman John Egan; former Capitol Hill staffer and venerable cable industry lobbyist James Mooney III; former Continental Cablevision President Timothy Neher; former CEO and chairman of Time Warner, Richard Parsons; and former HBO programmer Amy Tykeson.