Ab­sent glit­ter and Pres­i­dent Trump, U.S. jour­nal­ists hon­our press free­dom

Cape Breton Post - - Arts / Entertainment -

Prom­i­nent Wash­ing­ton jour­nal­ists, if not Hol­ly­wood stars, cel­e­brated the First Amend­ment dur­ing the an­nual White House Cor­re­spon­dents’ Din­ner, an event that lacked the glit­ter of past years be­cause of the ab­sence of the pres­i­dent of the United States.

With Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump send­ing his re­grets, the at­ten­tion was no longer fo­cused on an in-per­son roasting of the com­man­der in chief and his hu­mor­ous re­marks about pol­i­tics and the press. The red car­pet that once fea­tured Os­car win­ners, TV stars and a few ma­jor-league ath­letes barely turned heads.

In­stead, speak­ers at the din­ner pro­moted press free­dom and re­spon­si­bil­ity and chal­lenged Trump’s ac­cu­sa­tions of dis­hon­est re­port­ing.

The stars of the night were Water­gate re­porters Bob Wood­ward and Carl Bern­stein, who re­counted what they learned about jour­nal­ism from their re­port­ing for The Wash­ing­ton Post that helped lead to Pres­i­dent Richard Nixon’s res­ig­na­tion more than 40 years ago.

“Like politi­cians and pres­i­dents some­times, per­haps too fre­quently, we make mis­takes and go too far,” Wood­ward said. “When that hap­pens we should own up to it. But the ef­fort to­day to get this best ob­tain­able ver­sion of the truth is largely made in good faith. Mr. Pres­i­dent, the me­dia is not ‘fake news.”’

The evening was not with­out hu­mour aimed at the press and Trump.

“We’ve got to ad­dress the ele­phant that’s not in the room,” cracked the en­ter­tain­ment head­liner, Hasan Min­haj of “The Daily Show” on TV’s Com­edy Cen­tral. “The leader of our country is not here. And that’s be­cause he lives in Moscow. It’s a very long flight. As for the other guy, I think he’s in Penn­syl­va­nia be­cause he can’t take a joke.”

Trump was in­deed in Penn­syl­va­nia, hav­ing sched­uled a rally in Har­ris­burg to mark his 100th day in of­fice. He be­gan his re­marks with a lengthy if fa­mil­iar at­tack on the news me­dia while dis­miss­ing the din­ner and its par­tic­i­pants.

“A large group of Hol­ly­wood ac­tors and Wash­ing­ton me­dia are con­sol­ing each other in a ho­tel ball­room in our na­tion’s cap­i­tal right now,” Trump said. He added: “And I could not pos­si­bly be more thrilled than to be more than 100 miles away from Wash­ing­ton’s swamp, spend­ing my evening with all of you and with a much, much larger crowd and much bet­ter peo­ple, right?”

Trump be­came the first pres­i­dent since Ron­ald Rea­gan in 1981 to skip the event - and Rea­gan was re­cov­er­ing from an as­sas­si­na­tion at­tempt.

The of­fi­cial WHCA din­ner be­gan in 1921. In re­cent decades, the event of­fered Wash­ing­ton’s press corps an op­por­tu­nity to wear black tie and stun­ning gowns while mix­ing with celebrity guests.

Bob Wood­ward

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