WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump, who has been criticizing the news media and is famously thin-skinned, says he won’t be attending the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner — sparing himself the dubious honor of being an in-the-house target of jokes.
The annual fundraiser for college scholarships and venue for reporting awards mixes politicians, journalists and celebrities and is typically attended by the president and first lady. Remarks by a comedian, often roasting the president, and a humorous address by the president himself, often roasting the press and political opponents, have highlighted the event, which C-SPAN has carried live.
In a tweet Saturday, Trump wrote: “I will not be attending the White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner this year. Please wish everyone well and have a great evening!” He gave no reason for not attending.
Trump has long had an adversarial relationship with news media. Since taking office, however, he has stepped up his criticism by accusing some prominent news outlets of publishing “fake news” and calling them “the enemy of the American People!”
Trump had been a regular at the WHCA dinner in recent years, befitting his celebrity status as a reality TV star and beauty pageant owner. He skipped the dinner in April 2016, which came amid the presidential campaign and was the last of the dinners in which President Barack Obama was the honored guest. That didn’t mean Trump wasn’t the butt of jokes. At one point Obama told guests that Trump “has spent years meeting with leaders from around the world — Miss Sweden, Miss Argentina, Miss Azerbaijan.”
If he attended the dinner Trump would be a prime target of jokes, the camera showing his reaction to one-liners. In 2011, he was on hand — and appeared humiliated — as Obama lobbed joke after joke at his expense. At the time Trump was a proponent of the debunked claim that Obama wasn’t born in the U.S.
In a statement following Trump’s tweet, WHCA President Jeff Mason said: “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.”