Trump bails on White House Correspondents’ Dinner – Politico

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“I will not be attending the White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner this year. Please wish everyone well and have a great evening,” Trump tweeted. | AP Photo

The move follows a week of the president escalating his attacks on the press that covers him.

President Donald Trump announced Saturday that he will not attend the annual White House Correspondents’ Association dinner in Washington, D.C., capping a week in which he condemned the media and sought to snuff out leaks from within his own White House.

The move to withdraw from the dinner, which in the past has been criticized for its sometimes awkward schmoozing between the press and the administration it covers, was in line with the president’s increasingly adversarial relationship with the media, and came just a day after the White House froze out a number of news organizations from a briefing with the press secretary.

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The announcement, which came in Trump’s preferred method of communication — a tweet — said that Trump would pass on the April dinner, which benefits a journalism scholarship and recognizes reporters for their coverage of the president and is traditionally attended by major media outlets, celebrity guests and the president.

His refusal to attend comes amid reports that media outlets like CNN and MSNBC have been considering skipping the event at the Washington Hilton.

“I will not be attending the White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner this year. Please wish everyone well and have a great evening,” Trump tweeted.

Trump’s move comes in the heat of his ongoing battle with the media, which he has labeled the opposition party and “fake news.”

The dinner will still go on even without the president, according to the White House Correspondents Association.

“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,” said association president Jeff Mason in a statement

Trump is the first president to skip the annual dinner that began in 1921 in over 30 years. Ronald Reagan was the last president to skip the dinner, as he was recovering from a gunshot wound following an assassination attempt. He still provided some remarks by phone.

“It’s unfortunate but not terribly surprising that President Trump won’t attend the dinner,” said veteran White House reporter Julie Mason, host of the “Press Pool” on SiriusXM’s POTUS channel and a WHCA secretary and board member from 2009-2012.

“Honestly, I think outside observers get way more worked up about this dinner than members of the correspondents association. After the massive,celebrity-fraught drama of the past eight years, this feels like a nice reset opportunity to get back to the original point of the dinner — which is honoring the First Amendment by raising money for journalism scholarships and handing out journalism awards,” Mason added.

Trump’s own experiences at the dinner during the Obama administration have been uneven. At the 2013 dinner, he was reportedly booed upon arrival. In 2011, then-President Barack Obama spent much of his speech lampooning Trump for questioning the validity of his birth certificate. Trump was not amused at the time, responding later that the jokes were “not the greatest.”

Trump’s refusal to attend comes as no surprise to his supporters, who think that the president has nothing to win by mingling with the media, which he has labeled the opposition party.

“Good for POTUS,” said Adam Weiss, a New York City-based political communications strategist. “It was a losing proposition to attend the White House Correspondents Association dinner. He has nothing to gain. Why go to the Nerd Prom when 95 percent of the audience doesn’t like you and even respect you?”

Trump’s not alone in a dinner boycott as a form of protest amid the toxic relationship that has bubbled up between the press and the president. Bloomberg, Vanity Fair and the New Yorker said they would not be hosting parties around the event.

The war of words between Trump and the media hit a high point on Friday when he called the media the “enemy of the American people” during a speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference.

“I want you all to know that we are fighting the fake news. It’s fake, phony, fake,” Trump said. “A few days ago, I called the fake news ‘the enemy of the people,’ and they are. They are the enemy of the people. Because they have no sources. They just make them up when there are none.”

While the president railed against journalists for using anonymous sources during his speech on Friday, White House officials earlier briefed reporters on background to shoot down a story about how Chief of Staff Reince Priebus asked FBI leadership to debunk stories published by the New York Times and CNN about contacts between campaign officials and senior Russian intelligence officials.

Later on Friday, press secretary Sean Spicer blocked certain media including CNN, the New York Times, Buzzfeed and POLITICO from attending an off-camera press briefing in his office. Time and the Associated Press boycotted the briefing out of solidarity.

While that story fomented, the press team managed to distract the media with a story about their exclusion from a briefing instead of the news of the day about the improper contacts between Priebus and the law enforcement agency.

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