Trump de­clines to at­tend cor­re­spon­dents’ din­ner

The Washington Post Sunday - - POLITICS & THE NATION - BY AMY B WANG AND CLEVE R. WOOT­SON JR. amy.wang@wash­post.com cleve.woot­son@wash­post.com

Pres­i­dent Trump will not at­tend the White House Cor­re­spon­dents’ As­so­ci­a­tion din­ner, af­ter a cam­paign and early tenure in which he con­tin­u­ally bat­tled with the press.

Trump an­nounced his de­ci­sion on Twit­ter late Saturday af­ter­noon: “I will not be at­tend­ing the White House Cor­re­spon­dents’ As­so­ci­a­tion Din­ner this year. Please wish ev­ery­one well and have a great evening!”

Shortly af­ter Trump’s tweet, the pres­i­dent of the White House Cor­re­spon­dents’ As­so­ci­a­tion, which spon­sors the an­nual event, said in an email that the din­ner would take place without Trump’s at­ten­dance.

The din­ner “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,” WHCA Pres­i­dent Jeff Ma­son said.

The din­ner is sched­uled for April 29.

Since Trump’s inau­gu­ra­tion, calls to boy­cott the event have grown louder amid his in­creas­ingly fraught re­la­tion­ship with the press.

Through­out his cam­paign, Trump lashed out at news or­ga­ni­za­tions, sin­gling out cer­tain out­lets as “dis­hon­est.” Since his elec­tion, he has fre­quently ac­cused the me­dia of re­port­ing “fake news.” Ear­lier this month, the tense re­la­tion­ship reached a boil when Trump called the me­dia “the en­emy of the Amer­i­can Peo­ple.”

In re­sponse to con­cerns, the White House Cor­re­spon­dents’ As­so­ci­a­tion re­leased a state­ment ear­lier this month say­ing the din­ner would take place. Van­ity Fair, the New Yorker and Bloomberg have can­celed their par­ties.

Ques­tions about whether the din­ner is ap­pro­pri­ate were raised be­fore Trump took of­fice. The event is an an­nual gath­er­ing of jour­nal­ists and the peo­ple they cover, typ­i­cally head­lined by the sit­ting pres­i­dent. The White House Cor­re­spon­dents’ As­so­ci­a­tion awards $100,000 in schol­ar­ships at the din­ner, ac­cord­ing to its web­site.

The event be­gan in 1921, and Calvin Coolidge be­came the first pres­i­dent to at­tend the din­ner in 1924. In 1978, Jimmy Carter declined to at­tend, cit­ing ex­haus­tion. First lady Ros­alynn Carter and Vice Pres­i­dent Walter Mon­dale also didn’t show up that year, ac­cord­ing to The Wash­ing­ton Post’s Paul Farhi.

In 1981, Pres­i­dent Ron­ald Rea­gan man­aged to de­liver re­marks by phone while he was at Camp David re­cov­er­ing from an as­sas­si­na­tion at­tempt.

“If I could give you just one lit­tle bit of ad­vice, when some­body tells you to get in a car quick, do it,” Rea­gan said to laugh­ter.

In 2011, Pres­i­dent Barack Obama roasted Trump at the din­ner, di­rect­ing five min­utes of jokes at the man who had raised ques­tions about whether Obama was born in the United States.

“No one is hap­pier, no one is prouder to put this birth cer­tifi­cate mat­ter to rest than the Don­ald,” said Obama, who ul­ti­mately re­leased his birth cer­tifi­cate. “That’s be­cause he can fi­nally get back to fo­cus­ing on the is­sues that mat­ter, like: Did we fake the moon land­ing? What really hap­pened in Roswell? And where are Big­gie and Tu­pac?”

Obama ended his roast talk­ing about the change a Pres­i­dent Trump would bring to the White House.

Then he flashed a pic­ture of the then-hy­po­thet­i­cal Trump White House, em­bla­zoned with pink neon and gold col­umns, with bikini-clad women re­lax­ing in the foun­tain out­side.

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