THE WHITE HOUSE – Before President Donald Trump departed from the South Lawn of the White House on Marine One Friday afternoon for California, he said he will not attend this month’s White House Correspondents Association dinner and will instead hold a rally that day.
Trump said that the annual dinner is too negative and that he is going to instead attend something “big” and “great.”
When asked where the rally will be held, Trump said he doesn’t know yet.
Trump has skipped the two previous WHCA dinners that have been held since he took office in January 2017, becoming the first president in 36 years to do so. Trump often expresses his contempt for journalists, whom he calls “the enemy of the people” and “fake media.” He frequently bashes CNN, the Washington Post and The New York Times, saying none of those news outlets gives him a fair shake. He has done interviews mostly with Fox News, which has a more conservative slant.
Traditionally the correspondents’ dinner has offered an opportunity for the president, his senior staff members and the White House reporters who cover him to gather with other prominent journalists, to break bread and share a laugh or two. The black-tie fundraiser raises money for scholarships for journalism students and also presents awards to journalists. Usually a nationally known comic serves as the emcee and pokes fun of the president and his administration as well as journalists. The media roasts the president and he reciprocates.
But last year’s emcee, comedian Michelle Wolf, was criticized for jokes that many people considered distasteful and that mocked White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders. She attended to represent the president and sat on the dais just a few feet from Wolf, the headliner.
Perhaps in response to that fiasco, the WHCA opted to ditch the roast this year in favor of having a keynote address by historian Ron Chernow. The event will be held at the Washington Hilton Hotel.
After the speaker was announced last November, the president had offered a glimmer of hope that he might attend the dinner. On Twitter, he had said he might consider going.
So-called comedian Michelle Wolf bombed so badly last year at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner that this year, for the first time in decades, they will have an author instead of a comedian. Good first step in comeback of a dying evening and tradition! Maybe I will go?
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 21, 2018
It is not clear if Sanders or another White House staffer will attend.
As it did in the past two years, the WHCA seems to be taking the president’s rebuff in stride. The association’s president, Olivier Knox, issued a succinct statement on Twitter in response to the president’s decision: “We’re looking forward to an enjoyable evening of celebrating the First Amendment and great journalists past, present, and future.”
Trump spent his afternoon in Calixeco, Calif. where he hosted a roundtable discussion on immigration and border security. He then went to inspect a part of a U.S.-Mexico border wall. He is scheduled to attend a fundraiser in Los Angeles Friday night. After the fundraiser he will head to Las Vegas, where he is set to address the Republican Jewish Coalition’s leadership meeting. Vice President Mike Pence also is scheduled to speak at the event later in the day.