President Donald Trump tweeted on Saturday that he will not attend the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, scheduled to take place on April 29.
“I will not be attending the White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner this year,” Trump tweeted. “Please wish everyone well and have a great evening!”
The news comes after several prominent media organizations — namely Vanity Fair, the New Yorker and more recently Bloomberg — canceled their sponsorship of events surrounding the annual dinner. Even before Trump took office, critics, like Tom Brokaw, have questioned the appearance that the dinner sends to the public, as it gathers the D.C. press corps, major administration figures and A- to C- list celebrities in a surreal party nicknamed the “nerd prom.” Media from C-SPAN to “Entertainment Tonight” cover its red carpet.
Trump’s decision to forgo the dinner is not entirely surprising, given the particularly harsh relationship he and his administration has had with the news media.
Trump attacks directed toward the news media have only become more intense since taking office in January. One day before announcing he will not attend the dinner, Trump’s White House blocked several major news outlets from attending a press briefing with Press Secretary Sean Spicer. The outlets barred included the New York Times, CNN, the Los Angeles Times, Huffington Post, Buzzfeed and Politico.
Earlier in February, Trump tweeted that the so-called “fake news media” is the “enemy of the American people” and tagged several accounts directly, including the New York Times and CNN.
The dinner is put on by the White House Correspondents Association, an organization made up of members of the news media who cover the White House.
Jeff Mason, the president of the WHCA, said in a statement that the dinner will go on despite Trump’s announcement.
The dinner, he wrote in a statement, “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 at some of the best political journalism of the past year and recognizing the promising students who represent the next generation of our profession.”
A key highlight of the evening has been when the president gives remarks, including self-deprecating quips and barbs aimed at his critics. That has been followed by a featured comedian, including Larry Wilmore, Seth Meyers and Cecily Strong in recent years.
On CNN, Mason said that the dinner “already was going to be a different event,” but insisted that it would not be canceled. He said that they were still working on additional details.
A number of showbiz celebrities likely would have skipped the event had Trump attended, just as they did the inauguration. But the WHCA also faced the prospect of a number of news media types sitting it out as well.
In a way, Trump’s decision saves the WHCA from more awkward moments, as some journalists had questioned how the press corps could toast a president who has so derided their credibility. Trump’s chief adviser, Steve Bannon, has labeled the media the “opposition party.”
Trump will be the first president to skip the dinner since 1981, when Ronald Reagan was still recovering from an assassination attempt. Reagan still called in to the event and addressed the gathering.
Trump has attended the dinner in the past, perhaps most famously in 2011, when President Barack Obama made him the target of an extended series of jokes, a monologue that some called a takedown. Trump was in the midst of weighing whether to run for president in 2012, drumming up publicity as he questioned whether Obama was really born in the United States.
Trump attended the dinner again in 2015, just six weeks before he announced his presidential bid. That year, Obama quipped, “And Donald Trump is here. Still.”