Trump’s Staff To Skip White House Correspondents Dinner
There is no sign of a truce from President Donald Trump and his staff when it comes to the White House Correspondents’ Association annual dinner, and, by implication, in his war with the mainstream media. Quite the opposite.
Team Trump made this clear Tuesday when officials announced that no White House staff members will attend next month’s WHCA dinner in Washington April 29. The boycott was designed so the staffers could demonstrate “solidarity” with their boss, who won’t be there. This apparently would be the first time, at least in recent years, that there has been a total White House snub of the event.
White House press secretary Sean Spicer issued a statement: “The staff is standing in solidarity with the president, who has been treated unfairly. We hope, including the president, that things improve and we can attend next year.”
WHCA President Jeff Mason told members in a letter released Tuesday evening, “The White House informed the White House Correspondents’ Association this evening that White House staff will not be attending this year’s White House Correspondents’ Dinner out of ‘solidarity’ with President Trump, who has previously announced that he would skip the event.”
Mason, White House correspondent for Reuters, added: “The WHCA board regrets this decision very much. We have worked hard to build a constructive relationship with the Trump White House and believe strongly that this goal is possible even with the natural tension between the press and administrations that is a hallmark of a healthy republic. We made clear in our meeting tonight that President Trump, Vice President Pence and White House staff continue to be welcome to join us at this dinner.”
Trump announced in February that he would skip the dinner, making him the first president in more than three decades to do so. President Ronald Reagan wanted to attend during his first year in office, in 1981, but couldn’t because he was recovering from an assassination attempt. So Reagan called in and gave remarks by phone from the presidential retreat at Camp David.
Trump’s decision not to attend reflected his poor relations with the media, which he has attacked for many months. He has said that the “fake” news media are “the enemy of the people,” and has relished what he calls his “war” with the media.
Day to day, press secretary Spicer’s media briefings seem to become more combative. On Tuesday, Spicer got into an argument with April Ryan, a veteran reporter for the American Urban Radio Networks, because he objected to her questions about alleged connections between Trump and Russia. Spicer criticized her “agenda” and what he considered her adversarial tone. At one point, a miffed Spicer told Ryan to “Please, stop shaking your head again.” This sparked a firestorm on social media, including criticism that he was demeaning an African-American woman.
The correspondents’ dinner started in 1921 as a way for White House reporters to get to know their sources in a social setting. In recent years, scholarships have been given to students and awards presented to journalists – two widely praised programs. But the dinner has been criticized for becoming too glitzy, with many show-business celebrities seated at prized tables. The dinner has also been derided for demonstrating too much coziness between the press corps and government officials.
Some of the pre- and after-parties associated with the dinner were canceled this year, including the posh parties sponsored by Vanity Fair and Bloomberg. The WHCA also has not yet announced an entertainer for the event.
The dinner is now in uncharted territory. (Full disclosure: I’m a former president of the WHCA and have attended the dinner for three decades.) It could be a positive turning point, in the view of the critics, because it could push the dinner organizers to focus on journalism and defending the First Amendment instead of celebrity. But without Trump, it also could end up being a dull affair without the energy and excitement that only a president can provide. In either case, it will mark a big departure from the past.
Source: US News & World Report
Content Source: US News & World Report
Image Source: AFP Getty Images/ Brendan Smialowski,