WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump plans to skip the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner, marking the second year he has shunned the glitzy gathering of Washington journalists he routinely assails as “fake news.”
White House Correspondents’ Association president Margaret Talev said in statement Friday that the “White House has informed us that the president does not plan to participate in this year’s dinner but that he will actively encourage members of the executive branch to attend.”
Trump had said he “probably won’t do it” in an interview on the “Bernie and Sid” radio show on 77 WABC Radio taped Thursday and aired Friday. Calling the media “so bad” and “so fake,” Trump said: “I want to get it straightened out with the press before I do it.”
But the president, who has long had an adversarial relationship with the news media, did not elaborate on how he planned to do so. Since his campaign, he has ceaselessly blasted the “fake media” and “dishonest” reporters, singling out specific journalists and news outlets for criticism. He also has avoided holding a traditional news conference for over a year, though he often answers shouted questions from reporters.
True to form, Trump tweeted Friday: “So much of the media is dishonest and corrupt!
Traditionally, the president and first lady attend the annual dinner, a fundraiser for college scholarships and a venue for reporting awards, which mixes politicians, journalists and celebrities. The televised event requires the president to smile through remarks by a comedian — who typically roasts the president — as well as deliver a humorous address, teasing the press and political opponents.
Though notoriously thin-skinned, Trump has subjected himself to ribbing before, including New York’s Al Smith dinner during the 2016 campaign. But the correspondents’ dinner would return him to the site of past humiliation: Trump attended in 2011 and was relentlessly mocked by President Barack Obama and comedian Seth Meyers.
He skipped it in 2016, which came amid the presidential campaign and was the last of the dinners at which Obama was the honored guest. That didn’t mean Trump wasn’t the butt of jokes. At one point Obama told guests that Trump “has spent years meeting with leaders from around the world — Miss Sweden, Miss Argentina, Miss Azerbaijan.”
This year, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders will attend the April 28 dinner and represent the administration at the head table. Cabinet members and staffers are also free to attend, a message that was welcomed by West Wing aides who were forced to sit out the celebrations last year.
Trump did attend the annual Gridiron Club Dinner earlier this year, delivering a speech at the annual white-tie affair featuring journalists and officials. At that event, Trump offered a series of good natured one-liners in his remarks.
Among his quips: “I was very excited to receive this invitation and ruin your evening in person. That’s why I accepted.”
But he drew a more mixed response at the Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner that benefits needy kids, also attended by Trump’s Democratic presidential rival, Hillary Clinton.
Trump began innocently enough. He joked that Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., used to love Trump when he was a Democrat. He poked fun at plagiarism involving the first lady. But Trump’s remarks soon devolved into bitterness and insults, with the soon-to-be-president earning boos as he accused Clinton of corruption and hating Catholics.