Late on February 25, President Trump announced he would not attend the yearly White House Correspondents’ Dinner to occur on April 29. As usual, he took to Twitter to make this announcement, and within hours, bloggers started covering this unusual move by the president.
The yearly dinner, known by those in the industry as the “Nerd Prom,” is an occasion for all journalists, to get together. Scholarships and awards are given out during the festivities. The president is considered to be the major draw to help out with the efforts. Something that began as a simple dinner in 1921 has evolved into an important event that also attracts celebrities.
President Ronald Reagan Missed the Event with Good Reason
Another president who did not attend a White House Correspondents’ Dinner in recent years had a very good reason not to attend. In 1981, Ronald Reagan was recovering from a gunshot from an assassination attempt. However, President Reagan still called in during the event and made several jokes about the shooting. While speaking on the phone, Reagan was advising guests to always get out of a car quickly if someone tells them to do so.
In true Reagan fashion, he also ended the call by telling the guests that he looked forward to seeing them next year because he had a lot of questions to ask.
Other Presidents Skipped White House Correspondents’ Dinner
President Jimmy Carter is the last president who deliberately did not attend the dinner. In fact, he did so twice. The first one he skipped was in 1978 and the last one was in 1980. Richard Nixon was also a two-time skipper of the Correspondents’ Dinner. He refused to attend in 1972 and 1974, and he even told the media ahead of time that he would not attend.
Missing Correspondents’ Dinner and Tension
This announcement comes on the heels of a high amount of tension between many in the media and the White House. President Trump has gone into complete attack mode with many mainstream news organizations, and many of his remarks accused certain organizations like The New York Times as being “the opposition.”
In response to President Trump’s tweet, the president of the Correspondents’ Association, Jeff Mason, stated that the association and the dinner are a celebration for freedom of speech (First Amendment). The response also went on to state that this year’s dinner will not be any different, and they look forward to shining the spotlight on journalists as well as recognizing future journalists of tomorrow.
Attack News and Opposition
Steve Bannon, the White House Chief Strategist, further reiterated the President’s tweet at CPAC (Conservative Political Action Committee) that media organizations are a collective “opposition party.” Also, Trump made several references to the media during his speech at the conference by calling the media “fake news.”
The correspondents’ dinner has always been the one place where the White House and the media put their differences aside. However, it looks as though this year’s dinner will only add to the turbulent waters between journalists and the administration.