MAMOSA Report — The annual White House Correspondents Assn. dinner, Washington’s equivalent of Oscars night, will be missing a key guest this year: President Trump.
On Saturday, Trump tweeted he will not attend the April 29 dinner, considered the premier social event of the Washington press corps — and typically an evening of good-natured bantering between presidents and reporters with a mix of celebrities watching.
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,” said Jeff Mason, WHCA president. “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.”
Trump’s announcement comes amid growing tensions between his administration and the media. Trump has decried stories he doesn’t like as “fake news,” and described unnamed news groups as an “enemy of the people.”
A day earlier, the White House barred reporters from several major news organizations, including the Los Angeles Times, the New York Times, CNN and Politico, from attending an off-camera press briefing.
In a sign of the growing rift, several media organizations that traditionally sponsor lavish parties around the black-tie dinner had announced they would not do so this year.
At the annual dinner, the president usually delivers self-deprecating jokes and often is roasted by a high-profile comedian. The president also greets students who win journalism scholarships and awards, a major part of the evening.
Trump has been a frequent guest of media organizations at the dinner in the past, but he always sat at a table in the crowded ballroom, not up at the front dias.
President Obama singled Trump out during the dinner several years ago, mocking Trump for raising doubts about whether Obama was born in the United States.
“This year, as we do every year, we will celebrate the First Amendment and the role an independent press plays in a healthy republic,” the White House Correspondents Assn. said in a statement earlier this month about the upcoming dinner.
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 1981, President Ronald Reagan managed to deliver remarks by phone even though he was at Camp David recovering from an assassination attempt.
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.
(Based on reporting in The Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times)