President Donald Trump announced through his favourite communication channel, Twitter, on Saturday afternoon, that he will not attend this year’s White House Correspondents’ Association dinner scheduled for April 29. The president’s announcement comes amid recent escalation of tumultuous relations with the media, which he has described as purveyors of “fake news” and “enemies of the people.”
I will not be attending the White House Correspondents' Association Dinner this year. Please wish everyone well and have a great evening!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 25, 2017
Trump’s poor relations with the media sunk to new lows following media reports citing anonymous sources that alleged contacts between Trump’s aide and Russian intelligence. The reports also claimed that the White House addressed several inappropriate requests to the FBI to rebut the Russian allegations on its behalf.
The difficult relations between Trump and the media have not been helped by the hostile attitude of Trump’s senior adviser Steve Bannon, the former chief editor of the right-leaning Breitbart News, who has called the media the “opposition party.”
Meanwhile, Reuters‘ Jeff Mason, the president of the White House Correspondents Association (WHCA), which sponsors the annual dinner event, has responded to Trump’s announcement, saying that the dinner would take place without him.
Mason told CNN on Saturday that Trump’s decision was not surprising, following his recent hostile comments that the media were “enemies of the people.”
“That of course is something that the correspondents’ association and journalists reject,” Mason told CNN’s Brianna Keilar. “The media is an incredibly important part of a vibrant republic, and we celebrate that at that dinner.”
“The WHCA takes note of President Donald Trump’s announcement on Twitter that he does not plan to attend the dinner, which has been and will continue to be a celebration of the first amendment and the important role played by an independent news media in a healthy republic,” Mason said, according to the Guardian.
“It’s up to him to decide whether or not he wants to come,” he continued “But the correspondents’ association and the members who work in this room every day will continue to do our job and write the news and tell the truth about this administration, as we have done about every administration before.”
“We look forward to shining a spotlight at the dinner on some of the best political journalism of the past year and recognizing the promising students who represent the next generation of our profession.”
But prior to Trump’s latest announcement, some media organizations had said that they were withdrawing from the dinner in protest of Trump’s hostile comments about the media and the announcement on Friday by his press secretary, Sean Spicer, that the White House was excluding some media organizations, including the New York Times, CNN, the Guardian and Politico, from attending its press briefing.
Wrong. Ronald Reagan didn't skip, he called frm a hospital. The last president to SKIP it, was...yep: RICHARD NIXON.https://t.co/UP90tgOr9h— ZootopiaCity???????? (@ZootopiaCity) February 26, 2017
Vanity Fair and Bloomberg, who co-host an after-party, said they had canceled it. The New Yorker, which hosts a pre-party also said it had canceled the party, according to CNN.
The comedian Samantha Bee had announced in January that she was planning an alternative event she named “Not the White House Correspondents’ Dinner,” and that that she was inviting “journalists and non-irritating celebrities from around the world,” according to the Washington Post.
Some observers believe that Trump’s resolve to run for president and his decision not to attend the White House correspondents’ dinner could be linked with the incident in 2011 when President Barack Obama ridiculed the New York estate mogul over his championing of the so-called “birther movement.”
Obama also ridiculed Trump’s alleged political ambitions by impugning his ability to perform as president.
But there have been occasions in the past where the sitting president did not attended the White House Correspondents’ dinner, which was first held in 1921 during the administration of President Calvin Coolidge.
President Ronald Reagan did not attend in 1981 because he was recuperating after an assassination attempt. But he delivered remarks by phone from Camp David, cracking a joke about the attempt on his life.
“If I could give you just one little bit of advice, when somebody tells you to get in a car quick, do it.”
President Jimmy Carter also did not attend in 1978 due to “exhaustion.”
The White House Correspondents’ dinner is held every year and is attended by the sitting president, media representatives and celebrities. The dinner raises money for journalism scholarships.
[Featured Image by Alex Brandon/AP Images]