President Donald Trump used a Saturday tweet to announce he will not attend this year’s White House Correspondents Association Dinner, his latest salvo in his simmering clash with the media.
By using the social media site, the president took the news directly to the public and went around the press in another symbolic jab at media outlets. He made the announcement one day after his White House excluded some organizations, including CNN, Time and CQ Roll Call, from a “gaggle” with Press Secretary Sean Spicer, and after Trump lambasted the press as “enemies of the people.”
“The WHCA board is protesting strongly against how today’s gaggle is being handled by the White House,” Jeff Mason, a Reuters reporter who is president of the Correspondents Association said in a Friday statement about the gaggle kerfuffle. “The board will be discussing this further with White House staff.”
The association has long called the annual gala a celebration of the First Amendment. In a statement issued shortly after Trump’s tweet, Mason said the show will go on under that very premise.
“The White House Correspondents’ Association looks forward to having its annual dinner on April 29,” Mason said. “The WHCA takes note of President Donald Trump’s announcement on Twitter that he does not plan to attend the dinner, which 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.
“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,” Mason said.
His ongoing swats at the media achieve two things: They divert broadcast time and column inches away from stories like alleged — and possibly nefarious — contacts between his associates and Russia during the 2016 campaign; and they fire up his conservative base.
“We are fighting the fake news,” the president told the audience Friday at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference outside Washington, calling news reports about his administration that use anonymous sources as “phony.”
Media outlets who have published such pieces “are the enemy of the people,” Trump said. “They have no sources, they just make them up when there are none. … The fake news is the enemy of the people.”
Trump appeared to issue a threat at CPAC to news organizations that publish reports with anonymous sources disclosing unflattering information about his administration.
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“The fake news doesn’t tell the truth,” he said. “It doesn’t represent the people, it never will represent the people. We’re going to do something about it.”
The president, however, did. Or disclose what that “something” might be. He also mocked journalists collectively pointing to the First Amendment when criticizing his attacks on the press.
On Saturday, Trump ended the tweet with this: “Please wish everyone well and have a great evening!” He has attended previous WHCA dinners, but now regularly says the press does not cover his administration fairly.
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