Donald Trump today announced that he would skip the glitzy White House Correspondents’ Association (WHCA) annual dinner, to become the first US President to miss the gala in decades amidst his raging tiff with the media.
“I will not be attending the White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner this year. Please wish everyone well and have a great evening!,” Trump tweeted.
The black-tie dinner, which raises money for journalism scholarships, takes place every spring and is usually attended by the president, journalists, celebrities and Washington insiders.
The last president to miss the dinner was Ronald Reagan, who sat out because he was he recovering from an assassination attempt in 1981, although he still delivered remarks by phone, CNN reported.
According to National Public Radio (NPR), Richard Nixon was the last president to simply skip the event, doing so in 1972.
Trump’s announcement came a day after the White House excluded several major broadcasters and newspapers like The New York Times, CNN and BBC from an off-camera press briefing.
He has frequently described negative news coverage as “fake” and accused the media of being the “opposition party” and on Friday delivered his most slashing broadside yet, telling the Conservative Political Action Conference that major news outlets were “the enemy of the people”.
The WHCA dinner was held for the first time in Washington DC in 1920. This year’s dinner has been scheduled for April 29.
“The level of tension seemed incongruous with a black-tie event that is typically a jocular, if occasionally sharp-edged evening. The dinner, which has attracted A-list celebrities in recent years, features a presidential roast of reporters and a comic routine by a notable entertainer. Presidents are expected to be self-deprecating, which Mr Trump is decidedly not,” The New York Times said.
“The event may also evoke dark memories for Mr Trump, who was brutally mocked at the 2011 dinner by President Barack Obama and the late-night host Seth Meyers, both of whom skewered the real estate developer for his seemingly far-fetched political aspirations and reality-show gaudiness.
Cameras captured Mr Trump in the audience, stone-faced, and the evening has since been cited as a prime motivator behind his presidential run,” the influential American newspaper commented.
Reacting to Trump’s decision, The Correspondents’ Association, in a measured statement, said that it “takes note” of it. Jeff Mason, its president, wrote that the dinner “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.”