President Trump, marking his 100th day in office with a rally in Harrisburg, Pa., once again bashed media outlets as “fake news” while making much of the fact that his event was going on at the same time as the White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner.
“As you know there is another big gathering taking place tonight in Washington D.C.,” he told the crowd. “A large group of Hollywood actors and Washington media are consoling each other in a Washington ballroom right now.”
In fact, what was immediately noticeable about this year’s dinner was the lack of celebrity turnout. As one person was overheard quipping, “Not even a Kardashian.” Not only did Trump skip the dinner, but his staff did not attend in solidarity.
“I could not be more thrilled to be more than 100 miles away…with a much larger crowd and much, much better people,” Trump told the crowd, in a speech that resembled those he gave during the campaign.
He then went on to bash outlets like MSNBC and CNN as “fake news.” “They are trapped at the dinner, and it will be very very boring.”
Still, Trump dangled the prospect that he would attend the dinner next year.
“Maybe next year…” Trump said, dangling the prospect that he would attend the dinner next year.
As he has done at other rallies, Trump characterized the media as out-of-touch with the concerns of his supporters. “Their agenda is not your agenda,” he told the crowd.
“The truth is, there is no place I would rather be than right her in Pennsylvania to celebrate our 100-day milestone,” Trump said.
“I could not possibly more thrilled than to be more than 100 miles away from Washington’s swamp,” he said.
He then told the crowd that “before we talk about my first 100 days, let’s rate the media’s 100 days,” before launching into an extended critique of how the media has covered him. Trump reportedly encouraged his staff not to attend, and even some of his donor supporters backed out of the dinner several days ago after initially committing to sit a media tables.
Trump announced in February that he would be skipping this year’s White House Correspondents’ Dinner, the first president to do so since Ronald Reagan in 1981. But Reagan was recovering from an assassination attempt, and even he called in to the dinner and still addressed the crowd.
By contrast, Trump scheduled the rally in Pennsylvania last week, counter programming just as guests were entering the dinner itself.
It wasn’t a big surprise that Trump, at the start of his speech, would use the dinner as a target. It is an event that has been criticized in years from the likes of Tom Brokaw, who chided the event for being too much of an elite display of media figures, their White House sources and showbiz celebrities (Brokaw named Trump, who attended the dinner in past years, as an example of the type of celebrity at the dinner).
This year, it became clear even before Trump announced he would not attend the dinner that it would be a much different event. Many Hollywood figures were drawn to the dinner in the past because of the presence of Obama.
The White House Correspondents’ Assn., which organizes the dinner, said that despite Trump’s absence the dinner, the event would celebrate press freedom. A banner, “Celebrating the First Amendment,” was displayed over the dais, and First Amendment buttons were handed out to attendees.
At the rally, Trump also singled out the New York Times, attacking their editorials about his first 100 days, predicting that it would go online only because of sagging readership and even criticizing the paper for moving out of its offices to a new building in a “crummy location.” (New York Times subscriptions actually increased, but ad revenue dropped last year.)
Trump’s absence, and that of his administration, was apparent, but the dinner itself was still sold out with media figures, Capitol Hill lawmakers, journalists and network executives. Among Republicans attending were Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) and Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.). Also spotted was Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.
Leonardo DiCaprio was in Washington on Saturday — but he was in town to attend the Climate March.
On that note, Trump said that he would “make a big decision” on the Paris climate accords in the next two weeks. He touted his moves to repeal government regulation, while insisting that he would still repeal and replace Obamacare and would build a border wall on the Mexican border.