The White House on Friday announced that President Trump will not be attending the annual White House Correspondents’ Dinner on April 28, and will instead “actively encourage” his staff to attend to honor press freedom.
“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 and join us as we celebrate the First Amendment,” White House Correspondents’ Association president Margaret Talev said in a statement. “In keeping with tradition, Press Secretary Sarah Sanders also will represent the administration at the head table.”
Statement on President and WHCA Dinner pic.twitter.com/WiemgnIvcq
— WHCA (@whca) April 6, 2018
This is the second year in a row that Trump will be skipping the WHCD dinner. Last year, he became the first president to skip the dinner in 36 years.
“I will not be attending the White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner this year,” he tweeted last February. “Please wish everyone well and have a great evening!”
“This wasn’t a president that was elected to spend his time with reporters and celebrities,” Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders explained in an interview with ABC’s This Week at the time, adding that it would be “kind of naive” to assume there wouldn’t be any tension between the two sides.
Trump’s rocky relationship with the press likely would have been more evident than ever this year, had he decided to go: Just this week, amid rumors that he might attend the dinner, the president slammed the media as “so fake” in an interview with WABC’s Bernie and Sid in the Morning.
“I sort of feel that the press is so bad,” he said. “It’s so fake, it’s so made up. I mean, ‘sources say’ and they have no sources. They’re like novelists. I call them novelists. […] In many cases they literally make up sources.”
Earlier in the week, Trump called out several major media networks by name, blasting them as “fake,” “sick,” and “biased,” after a leaked script from the right-leaning Sinclair Broadcast Group was published online by the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. The script, written for one of the many “must-run” segments that Sinclair forces its news stations to air — which are often full of misinformation and White House propaganda — required anchors to denounce the spread of “false news” and claimed that certain journalists were injecting their “personal agenda[s]” into their reporting.
“So funny to watch Fake News Networks, among the most dishonest groups of people I have ever dealt with, criticize Sinclair Broadcasting for being biased. Sinclair is far superior to CNN and even more Fake NBC, which is a total joke,” Trump tweeted shortly after the script went public.
One day later, he added, “The Fake News Networks, those that knowingly have a sick and biased AGENDA, are worried about the competition and quality of Sinclair Broadcast. The ‘Fakers’ at CNN, NBC, ABC & CBS have done so much dishonest reporting that they should only be allowed to get awards for fiction!”
The Fake News Networks, those that knowingly have a sick and biased AGENDA, are worried about the competition and quality of Sinclair Broadcast. The “Fakers” at CNN, NBC, ABC & CBS have done so much dishonest reporting that they should only be allowed to get awards for fiction!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 3, 2018
Earlier in March, Trump also called out the Washington Post, claiming confusingly that it needed to register as a “lobbyist” because its owner, Jeff Bezos, is also the CEO of Amazon. A few days prior, he also claimed that there was “so much fake news” and that it had “never been more voluminous or more inaccurate.”
This year’s White House Correspondents’ Dinner will be held on Saturday, April 28 and will be hosted by comedian and former Daily Show correspondent Michelle Wolf. Awards are expected to be presented to CNN for its January 2017 report on the information contained in the notorious Steele dossier (before the document was later published by BuzzFeed News), and to New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman for her reporting on the Trump White House.
Trump has called out both CNN and Haberman by name on several occasions, frequently labeling CNN “fake news” and tweeting last year that Haberman was a “Hillary flunky,” Politico notes.