President Trump will not attend the White House correspondents’ dinner, after a campaign and early tenure where he continually battled with the press.
Trump announced his decision on Twitter late Saturday afternoon. The dinner is scheduled for April 29.
I will not be attending the White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner this year. Please wish everyone well and have a great evening!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 25, 2017
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 even 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. “We look forward to shining a spotlight at the dinner on some of the best political journalism of the past year and recognizing the promising students who represent the next generation of our profession.”
Since Trump’s inauguration, calls to boycott the annual event have grown louder amid his increasingly fraught relationship with the press. Throughout his campaign, Trump regularly lashed out at the press, singling out news outlets for being “dishonest” and at one point barring The Washington Post from covering his campaign events. Since his election, he has accused certain media outlets of publishing “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 canceled their parties, which had usually drawn celebrities. Comedian Samantha Bee announced in January that she was planning an alternative event on the same night for “journalists and non-irritating celebrities from around the world.” (Its tentative name: “Not the White House Correspondents’ Dinner.”)
Questions about whether the dinner was appropriate existed 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 its annual dinner, according to its website, and recently started a mentoring program that pairs working journalists with journalism students.
The annual dinner 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 even though 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.
Trump has attended the dinner before.
In 2011, then-president Barack Obama roasted Trump at the dinner — five minutes of jokes directed 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?”
At the time, Obama joked about Trump’s experience to lead the nation.
“All kidding aside, obviously, we all know about your credentials and breadth of experience,” Obama said. “For example, no seriously, just recently in an episode of ‘Celebrity Apprentice,’ at the steakhouse, the men’s cooking team did not impress the judges from Omaha Steaks. And there was a lot of blame to go around but you, Mr. Trump, recognized that the problem was a lack of leadership and so ultimately you didn’t blame Little John or Meatloaf — you fired Gary Busey. And these are the kinds of decisions that would keep me up at night. Well-handled, sir. Well-handled.”
Obama ended his roast talking about the change a President Donald 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.