• Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Subscribe
  • RSS

Trump To Skip White House Correspondent’s Dinner

White House Correspondents Dinner

In a tweet late yesterday afternoon, Donald Trump announced that he would be skipping the annual White House Correspondents Association Dinner:

Capping a week of extraordinary hostility toward the news media, President Trump tweeted on Saturday that he would not attend this year’s charity dinner of the White House Correspondents’ Association, scheduled for April 29, a Washington tradition symbolizing comity between the president and the press.

Whether Mr. Trump would appear at the dinner had been an open question: The president has blasted the news media as the “opposition party” and on Friday delivered his most slashing broadside yet, telling the Conservative Political Action Conference that major news outlets were “the enemy of the people.” Later, his press secretary barred journalists from CNN, The New York Times and other organizations from a briefing at the White House.

The level of tension seemed incongruous with a black-tie event that is typically a jocular, if occasionally sharp-edged evening. The dinner, which has attracted A-list celebrities in recent years, features a presidential roast of reporters and a comic routine by a notable entertainer. Presidents are expected to be self-deprecating, which Mr. Trump is decidedly not.

The event may also evoke dark memories for Mr. Trump, who was brutally mocked at the 2011 dinner by President Barack Obama and the late-night host Seth Meyers, both of whom skewered the real estate developer for his seemingly far-fetched political aspirations and reality-show gaudiness. Cameras captured Mr. Trump in the audience, stone-faced, and the evening has since been cited as a prime motivator behind his presidential run.

Still, a White House official said this month that Mr. Trump planned to continue the tradition of the dinner, which raises money for scholarships.

The Correspondents’ Association, in a measured statement on Saturday, said that it “takes note” of the president’s decision. Jeff Mason, its president, wrote that 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.”

Mr. Mason said on CNN that one of the last times a president did not attend the dinner was in 1981, as it was shortly after the March 30 attempted assassination of Ronald Reagan. Mr. Reagan telephoned from his hospital room.

This year’s dinner was already shaping up as an outlier. Vanity Fair decided not to hold its traditional after-party, considered the high-water event of the Washington social calendar. Its co-sponsor, Bloomberg L.P., bowed out on Friday, citing a lack of interest. The New Yorker also canceled an event.

This isn’t an entirely surprising development, of course. As I noted just yesterday, Trump’s relationship with the media has become increasingly tense thanks to things such as Trump calling the media ‘the enemy of the American people’ and his staffers doing things like barring certain members of the White House Press Corps from routine press briefings has only made it worse. In reaction to the most recent developments in that relationship, in fact, there were some members of the media already calling for the White House Correspondents Association to either cancel the dinner entirely, which was unlikely since it is the largely educational organization’s biggest fundraiser of the year, or to take the extraordinary step of declining to invite the President at all, which I’m not sure has ever happened during the modern era of the dinner. Additionally, it was clear that much of the hype surrounding the dinner that grows most prominently out of the Clinton Era would be downplayed this year since it seemed unlikely that many Hollywood celebrities would choose to appear if Trump was a guest. Finally, to be honest, the forum itself seems like one that Trump himself would not have been comfortable attending. The man clearly seems to have little in terms of a sense of humor and doesn’t particularly enjoy being satirized, especially not in person. Examples of that can be seen in his deadpan reaction to the ribbing he took when he attended the dinner in 2011 from both President Obama and Seth Meyer and from his appearance at the Al Smith Dinner in New York City during the 2016 campaign, where he ended up giving a speech that fell flat when it came to humor and became far too partisan for a crowd used to an event that has always been light-hearted and meant to rise above politics.

At the same time, I’m sympathetic to the argument that Jazz Shaw makes in his post on the news of Trump skipping the event:

There’s also been a wave of criticism in recent years over the rather gaudy and frankly inappropriate nature of this meeting. It attracts a list of high profile celebrities who wind up sitting alongside both elected officials and media figures, all yukking it up while ignoring the irony of such a cozy gathering of members of the government and those whose job is ostensibly to hold them accountable.

I’ve said much the same thing in the past:

There’s nothing per se wrong with the White House Correspondent’s Association holding an annual dinner just like many other voluntary and professional associations do, and indeed there are some things that go on at the event that are worthwhile such as scholarships given to aspiring journalism students and awards to reporters who have excelled in the field. The dinner itself has been going on since 1920 and for a long time it was just like any other professional banquet. In the past several decades, though, it has become perverted into a festival of vain self-absorption and self-congratulatory nonsense in which reporters and politicians gather together and seemingly forget for an evening that large segments of the American public looks upon them with disdain, and that events like “Nerd Prom” only reinforce those opinions. Things have only gotten worse as the event has turned into a media circus since the media coverage tends to create the incentives for the worst aspects of the event.

Removing the cameras, though, is unlikely to change anything, because what’s wrong with “Nerd Prom” is the same thing that’s wrong with the rest of our political culture. It is merely a reflection of the self-absorbed narcissism that characterizes much of the political world in Washington, D.C. as well as the worst aspects of the political media. Unless and until that changes, nothing is going to change at all.

I stand by that criticism, but at the same time, I think that the annual affair is benign and that Trump is being far too hypersensitive in canceling outright. The fact that he’s done so is just another sign that he is far too thin-skinned to withstand even a minor bit of criticism, which is generally a bad attribute in a President. In any case, the White House Correspondents Dinner will go on without Trump, although it will be interesting to see how much coverage it gets in the media without the promise of a Presidential speech. The fact that Trump is speaking may actually increase press interest since many will wonder what will be said about President’s failure to attend — a first since Ronald Reagan missed the event in 1981, although in that case Reagan kind of had an excuse since it occurred barely a month after he had been shot in an attempted assassination. In that respect, I’d suggest that whoever ends up hosting and speaking at the event should be careful. Not making jokes at the President’s expense will be impossible, of course, but the possibility of a backlash where Trump is seen as being unfairly attacked when he’s not there to respond also exists if the jokes go too far over the top.

Related Posts:

About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. CSK says:

    Oh, go ahead and say it, Doug: He’s chicken. Chicken, chicken, chicken. Cluck, cluck, cluck.

    Seriously, there was a good article today in the New York Times by Glenn Thrush (and another reporter) that talked about how enraged and dumbfounded Trump was to discover that he no longer could control his press coverage in the same way he controlled the tabloid coverage of him in New York.

    If he actually thought he could control the national and international press, he’s dumber than even I thought. And if thinks the same things that made him a tabloid star would be appealing to, say, The Christian Science Monitor or The Washington Post, his stupidity and self-absorption know no bounds.

    Not meaning to be crude here (who, moi?), but let’s face it: Everything, for Trump, especially news coverage, boils down to the size of his dick.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 27 Thumb down 0

  2. Jake says:

    And so he should. All mainstream media has been on full court press against Trump mostly lies and exaggerations.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vACfwwisps8

    Poorly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 17

  3. al-Ameda says:

    @Jake:

    And so he should. All mainstream media has been on full court press against Trump mostly lies and exaggerations.

    You’re right, the ‘mainstream media’ has been on a full court press to point out Trump’s many lies. It is safe to say that Trump is afraid to attend. It’s that simple.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 19 Thumb down 1

  4. KM says:

    he possibility of a backlash where Trump is seen as being unfairly attacked when he’s not there to respond also exists if the jokes go too far over the top.

    Yeah, that’s what happens when you skip the party as a deliberate FU to the hosts – they tend to talk sh^t about you all night long. There’s nothing unfair about it since he was given the opportunity to be there to defend himself and he’s off sulking in his room like a little emo teen. It’s unfair when the popular kids don’t invite you then start the trash talk but you’re fair game when you decide to pull a Cartman.

    He thinks he’s getting one over on them in the most jeuvenile way ( “I hate them so much! See if I go to their party. They’ll miss me then!!”) and then will be shocked when the schoolyard’s full of people talking about how lame he was for hiding. He couldn’t be anymore high school drama if he tried.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 16 Thumb down 0

  5. Jake says:

    @al-Ameda:

    Keep telling yourself that.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 13

  6. al-Ameda says:

    @Jake:

    Keep telling yourself that.

    I have no need to tell myself anything that is not true.
    Clearly, both (1) Trump’s repeated lies and misrepresentations, and (2) his refusal to attend because he fears being roasted – are very obvious to any normal observer of the current American political landscape.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 0

  7. Scott says:

    @al-Ameda: All bullies are basically cowards. Trump fits the category.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 15 Thumb down 0

  8. t says:

    the definition of shook

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  9. Pch101 says:

    the possibility of a backlash where Trump is seen as being unfairly attacked when he’s not there to respond also exists if the jokes go too far over the top.

    Trump is unpopular among Democrats and the majority of independents, so there isn’t much risk of that.

    The “Jakes” of the world will take offense, of course, but they don’t matter. (Talk about snowflakes…)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  10. Gustopher says:

    Is Alec Baldwin available?

    Make The White House Correspondents Dinner Great Again!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 0

  11. Gustopher says:

    A bit of ritualistic humiliation and mockery really should be a standard part of the Presidency, as well as to smile and take it politely — it would help keep out people who are temperamentally unfit for office. The Brits do it with the PM question time in parliament, and that seems like a tradition we should adopt.

    I cannot think of any President during my lifetime who was so thin skinned and easily provoked into poor behavior.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 19 Thumb down 0

  12. teve tory says:

    I cannot think of any President during my lifetime who was so thin skinned and easily provoked into poor behavior.

    Every president in my lifetime, whether I’ve liked or disliked them, at least had some measure of composure and good sport. Trump has a raging personality disorder, and I’m sure everyone in the white house has pondered what they’ll do if it reaches the tipping point.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 0

  13. SKI says:

    @al-Ameda:

    his refusal to attend because he fears being roasted

    I would suggest it is less his fear of being roasted as his inability to perform the basic tasks of giving a self-depreciating speech that is the problem. Remember the Al Smith Dinner. He was ok with being made fun of (visibly at least) but he couldn’t actually give the required self-depreciating speech the type of event calls for. Nor were his return blasts jokes, they were over the top political attacks.

    Trump is lacking in basic social functioning skills.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 0

  14. Mikey says:

    If Trump were any more of a pussy, he’d want to start grabbing himself.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 33 Thumb down 0

  15. Pch101 says:

    @al-Ameda:

    his refusal to attend because he fears being roasted

    He probably also doesn’t want to be rejected. He’s dumping them preemptively in order to avoid being dumped first.

    Trump is a control freak. Anything that removes his perception of being in charge will derail him. He’s the one who is supposed to be doing the rejecting.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  16. Davebo says:

    Trump can neither take, nor tell a joke so why would he attend?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  17. CSK says:

    @Gustopher:

    I would love to see Baldwin show up at the WHCD as Trump, with Rosie O’Donnell as Bannon leading him around by a leash. Then when “Trump” rose to give a speech, “Bannon” could manipulate him like a ventriloquist’s dummy.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  18. CSK says:

    @Mikey:

    Congratulations. That is a great line.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  19. Pch101 says:

    It would be funny if Obama attended, seated next to Alec Baldwin.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  20. Mr. Bluster says:

    Paranoia Strikes Deep…

    Sean Spicer targets own staff in leak crackdown
    The push includes random phone checks overseen by White House lawyers.

    Upon entering Spicer’s office for what one person briefed on the gathering described as “an emergency meeting,” staffers were told to dump their phones on a table for a “phone check,” to prove they had nothing to hide.

    Spicer also warned the group of more problems if news of the phone checks and the meeting about leaks was leaked to the media. It’s not the first time that warnings about leaks have promptly leaked. The State Department’s legal office issued a four-page memo warning of the dangers of leaks, and that memo was immediately posted by The Washington Post.
    http://www.politico.com/story/2017/02/sean-spicer-targets-own-staff-in-leak-crackdown-235413

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  21. Mr. Bluster says:

    Since President Pud the Pouter is staying home to play with his marbles I am proud to nominate one of my United States Congressman, Representative Mike Bost (R) to fill in…if you can find him.
    Crowd demands meeting with Congressman Bost
    http://www.wsiltv.com/story/34588866/crowd-demands-meeting-with-congressman-bost
    Political Junkies Bonus…item includes raw footage of Bost throwing a tantrum in the Illinois General Assembly.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  22. Mr. Bluster says:

    Nominee for Navy Secretary withdraws.
    becoming the second Pentagon pick unable to untangle their financial investments in the vetting process.
    http://www.politico.com/story/2017/02/nominee-for-navy-secretary-to-withdraw-235418

    Like a well oiled machine!
    HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  23. An Interested Party says:

    …but the possibility of a backlash where Trump is seen as being unfairly attacked when he’s not there to respond also exists if the jokes go too far over the top.

    Oh please, spare me…Trump and his deplorables trash and bully all kinds of people and where is the backlash against them? Well, at least from fellow Republicans anyway…

    Meanwhile, the Mango Mussolini is simply following the lead of so many of those in his own party who are too chicken-shit to stand in front of their own constituents…it’s funny how so many Republicans act like they are so big and bad and yet, they can’t even face the people they are supposed to represent…how pathetic…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  24. Dazedandconfused says:

    Those bone spurs must have flared up again. Unfortunate, because nonetheless this will be un-good for moral.

    Steve Bannon encounters an impromptu meeting of White House staff:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7lRoVFdbBNc

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  25. Sleeping Dog says:

    @Gustopher:

    Imagine, Trump at question time. LoL

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  26. Hal_10000 says:

    @Mikey:

    I actually LOLd at that.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  27. teve tory says:

    How are you tough enough to deal with Putin and Kim Jong-un when you can’t handle Jake Tapper and Major Garrett?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  28. JohnMcC says:

    From the quotes contained in the Original Post:

    “…(T)here’s been a wave of criticism (of the WHCA Dinner) over the rather gaudy and frankly inappropriate nature of this meeting…” Mr Jazz Shaw

    “…(I)t has become perverted into a festival of vain self absorption and self-congratulatory nonsense…” Mr Mataconis

    Bases on the previously expressed opinions about the Dinner it sounds like exactly the place that Pres Trump would have stood in line to attend.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  29. Mr. Bluster says:

    More fake news from the BBC

    Father of US commando killed in Yemen refused to meet Trump
    The father of a US Navy Seal killed in a raid on a suspected al-Qaeda compound in Yemen last month has said that he refused to meet US President Donald Trump when his son’s body arrived home.
    http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-39099680

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  30. SC_Birdflyte says:

    Appropriate revenge might be for all speakers to eschew any mention of the president in their remarks. As much as DT hates being mocked, being ignored might drive him right over the edge.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  31. Jen says:

    @SC_Birdflyte: I thought that too. This is exactly the type of crowd he wishes he were at the center of–Hollywood elites and celebrities, plus the media, which he has long thought he could manipulate, based on his handling of New York gossip columns. That he is now the butt of their jokes stings, but being ignored completely…his ego couldn’t handle that.

    The only concern I’d have with that tactic is that Bannon would end up spinning it as they were ‘scared’ of him or some such nonsense.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  32. CSK says:

    @Jen:

    The thing is, a lot of those A-listers have already sent their regrets because they thought Trump would show up at the WHCD and they didn’t want to be in the same room with him.

    Practically all of the before and after parties–the really big deals–have been canceled because of the no-shows.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  33. Joe says:

    @Davebo:

    Not only can Trump not tell or take a joke, have you ever seen him actually laugh at anything in a heartfelt way?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  34. teve tory says:

    GWB demands answers on Trump and Russia

    Now that we’ve seen Trump, GWB comes across like a goddam elder statesman.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0