Donald Trump’s growing feud with the media has hit a fever-pitch, with the newly elected Republican president announcing he plans to become the first commander-in-chief in nearly four decades to skip out on the annual White House Correspondents’ Dinner.
CNN reports Trump will be the first sitting president since a still recovering Ronald Reagan missed the black-tie dinner that raises money for journalism scholarships in 1981 following an assassination attempt. Even then, Reagan delivered remarks by phone.
According to NPR, the last president to outright bypass the event was the beleaguered and ultimately impeached Richard Nixon.
“I will not be attending the White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner this year,” Trump recently tweeted. “Please wish everyone well and have a great evening.”
Just weeks into his administration, Trump has been embroiled in a nasty dispute with mainstream media, leading him to recently brand the fourth estate the “enemy of the people” and ban such traditional publications as CNN and the New York Times from a recent White House media event.
Even before the president’s announcement, several media outlets had already withdrawn from taking part in the April 29, Washington D.C.-based event and Vanity Fair and Bloomberg news had pulled the plug on their annual star-studded after-party.
White House Correspondents Association President Jeff Mason recently told CNN’s Brianna Keilar that Trump’s decision is not surprising given all the negative things he has proclaimed about the media over the last several weeks.
“That of course is something that the correspondents’ association and journalists reject,” he said of the notion of news organizations being an enemy of the people. “The media is an incredibly important part of a vibrant republic, and we celebrate that at that dinner.”
No matter what the president decides, Mason insisted journalists will continue to truthfully report the news as the situation dictates.
Not long before then, White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon referred to the press as the “opposition party” at a Conservative Political Action Conference gathering. Later, Trump himself dedicated a great deal of his speech to that same audience, castigating the “fake news” media.
Since its inception in 1921, the dinner has been a time when the president and the media have typically buried the hatchet with the two sides taking on one another in a light-hearted way before acknowledging the important role a vibrant media plays in a democracy.
In recent times, not much has been light about the nature of the discord between the president and members of the media.
CBS anchor and former Correspondents’ Association board member Major Garrett doesn’t think the solution lies in skipping the event altogether.
“If Trump represents a genuine threat to press freedoms, then foregoing the dinner doesn’t change a thing,” he wrote in a recent Washington Post opinion piece. “The right response, instead, is for reporters and news organizations to redouble their commitment to a WHCA dinner built around the journalism of the present and of the future.”
That a president is at odds with the media at the time the calendar turns to mark the annual event comes as nothing new.
For example, Reagan took part in the event at a time when there was increased media scrutiny being dedicated to the Iran-Contra weapons scandal in the 1980s, and Bill Clinton attended the event in the years before and after he was impeached following the Monica Lewinsky scandal.
Almost from the day he took office, Trump has derided the media with talk of “fake news” reporting. He has also routinely referred to the media as “dishonest” and chastised journalists as being bias anytime they have reported stories from a lens that in any way differs from his.
[Featured Image by Alex Brandon/Getty Images]