Tuesday 24 April 2018

Donald Trump to skip annual White House correspondents’ dinner

The president said he ‘probably won’t do it’ in a radio interview in which he also called the media ‘so bad’ and ‘so fake’.

President Donald Trump talks with reporters aboard Air Force One (Evan Vucci/AP)
President Donald Trump talks with reporters aboard Air Force One (Evan Vucci/AP)

By Catherine Lucey, Associated Press

US 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 a statement 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”.

Mr Trump had said he “probably won’t do it” in an interview on the Bernie and Sid radio show on 77 WABC Radio.

Calling the media “so bad” and “so fake”, he 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 has also avoided holding a traditional news conference for over a year, though he often answers shouted questions from reporters.

True to form, Mr Trump tweeted on 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, Mr Trump has subjected himself to ribbing before, including New York’s Al Smith dinner during the 2016 campaign.

However the correspondents’ dinner would return him to the site of past humiliation having attended in 2011 and was relentlessly mocked by then-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 Mr Obama was the honoured guest.

That did not mean Mr Trump was not the butt of jokes. At one point Mr Obama told guests Mr 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.

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White House press secretary Sarah Sanders speaks during the daily briefing at the White House (Susan Walsh/AP)

Cabinet members and staffers are also free to attend, a message welcomed by West Wing aides who were forced to sit out the celebrations last year.

Mr 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, Mr 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 children, also attended by his presidential rival Hillary Clinton.

Mr Trump began innocently enough, joking senate minority leader Chuck Schumer used to love him when he was a Democrat.

He poked fun at plagiarism involving the first lady, but remarks soon devolved into bitterness and insults with the soon-to-be-president earning boos as he accused Mrs Clinton of corruption and hating Catholics.

Press Association

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