Friday 21 July 2017

Trump to snub charity dinner with press

US President Donald Trump
US President Donald Trump
A mural depicting Vladimir Putin taking off a Donald Trump mask on a storefront in Brooklyn, New York Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Susan Decker

US President Donald Trump said he won't attend this year's White House Correspondents' Association Dinner, following weeks of attacks on news organisations that included calling them "the enemy of the American people".

"I will not be attending the White House Correspondents' Association Dinner this year. Please wish everyone well and have a great evening!" Mr Trump told his 25 million Twitter followers.

In his first month in office, Mr Trump has made attacks on the media a signature policy of his administration. On Friday, his spokesman Sean Spicer held a briefing for reporters that excluded news organisations including the 'New York Times' and CNN that have written stories critical of the president.

That followed a Conservative Political Action Conference speech in which Mr Trump again lashed out at what he calls "fake news".

Mr Trump, who's golfed in Florida with at least two PGA stars since taking office, decided not to attend the April 29 dinner because he was elected to speak directly to Americans and not "spend his time with reporters and celebrities" he's criticised, White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said on ABC's 'This Week' programme.

"It's kind of naïve of us to think that we can all walk into a room for a couple of hours and pretend that some of that tension isn't there," Ms Sanders said. "You know, one of the things we say in the south, 'if a girl scout egged your house, would you buy cookies from her?' I think that this is a pretty similar scenario."

The annual WHCA dinner - dubbed the "nerd prom" - is a fundraising event where Washington's journalists hobnob with politicians and celebrities.

The correspondents' association was founded in 1914 after president Woodrow Wilson threatened to do away with news conferences. The group started the annual dinner in 1921 and presidents have traditionally attended.

"The WHCA takes note of President Donald Trump's announcement on Twitter that he does not plan to attend the dinner, which 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," Jeff Mason, the group's president, said in a statement.

"We look forward to shining a spotlight at the dinner on some of the best political journalism of the past year and recognising the promising students who represent the next generation of our profession."

Before entering politics, Mr Trump attended in 2011 and was famously roasted by both then-president Barack Obama and comedian Seth Meyers.

Mr Obama said Mr Trump "would certainly bring some change to the White House", showing an image of the residence with golden pillars and a sign that said "Hotel - Casino - Golf Course - Presidential Suite".

Mr Trump later said he "loved that evening" and that Mr Obama did "a good job with it".

Meanwhile, Nigel Farage dined out with Mr Trump and some of his senior advisers on Saturday, just days after addressing American conservatives at a conference.

The former Ukip leader sat down for dinner with Mr Trump at the president's luxury hotel, the Trump International Hotel, not far from the White House.

Mr Farage posted on Twitter a photograph, captioned "Dinner with the Donald", of himself grinning at a table with the president, his daughter Ivanka, her senior White House adviser husband Jared Kushner, and Florida governor Rick Scott.

Earlier, Mr Farage appeared to back the president's aggressive dismissals on the media, telling American broadcaster Fox's 'Business Network' programme they are "losing this battle big time".

In his own broadside, he said: "They are simply not prepared to accept that Brexit happened, that Trump happened.

"They kind of want to turn the clock back and what they don't realise is they are losing viewers, they are losing listeners, they are losing this battle big time.

"I am pleased that the president is not afraid to stand up to them."

Irish Independent

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