Why It Matters That Trump Is Passing On The White House Correspondents' Dinner

Photo: Joshua Roberts/Bloomberg/Getty Images.
Nearly ever year since 1921, U.S. presidents have joined the White House Correspondents' Association for a dinner to honor journalists. But Trump is about to become the first exception to this rule in 36 years.
Trump already had a shaky relationship with the media. He's repeatedly accused popular news sources of "fake news," and he recently banned multiple outlets from a press briefing. Earlier this month, he emailed his supporters a survey asking them "to fight back against the media’s attacks and deceptions."
Advertisement
The dinner, which takes place on April 29, might've been a chance for him to mend his relationship with the press, but that won't be happening.
"I will not be attending the White House Correspondents' Association Dinner this year," he tweeted Saturday. "Please wish everyone well and have a great evening!"
The last president to forego the event was Ronald Reagan, who was recovering from his assassination attempt during the 1981 dinner, but he still spoke on the phone with the guests. Before that, Jimmy Carter and Richard Nixon both skipped out twice. But even Nixon attended during the Watergate investigation, despite the fact that several reporters there had helped incriminate him, Mashable reports.
"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," White House Correspondents' Association President Jeff Mason said in a statement to NPR. "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."
CBS Chief White House correspondent Major Garrett, who used to be a White House Correspondents' Association board member, urged journalists to attend the event to defend freedom of the press when many are worried about its survival.
"If the dinner were canceled because (gasp!) a president made a few snide remarks about White House reporters, that act of self-regard would say that the First Amendment is negotiable and that emotional well-being takes precedence over professional responsibilities," he wrote in The Washington Post. "For myself and for my colleagues on the beat, let me say unequivocally: never."
Advertisement