Opinion: Unsurprisingly, Trump to skip Correspondents’ Dinner

Nicholas Hunter

Nicholas Hunter

President Donald Trump announced on Twitter Sunday that he will not be attending the annual White House Correspondents’ Dinner this year.

Trump will be the first president since 1981 to miss the event; Ronald Reagan missed the event that year because he was recovering from getting shot in an assassination attempt.

The event, scheduled for April 29, is held by the White House Correspondents’ Association, which is made up of White House journalists from independent news companies across the country.

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,” WHCA President Jeff Mason said in a statement on their website. “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.

White House Deputy Press Secretary Susan Huckabee Sanders defended Trump on ABC’s This Week, arguing, “If a Girl Scout egged your house, would you buy cookies from her? I think that this is a pretty similar scenario.”

“This wasn’t a president that was elected to spend his time with reporters and celebrities,” Sanders said.

The problem is that this is not about just that. Nearly every president has had a less-than-friendly relationship with the news media, but this goes much further. Trump is declaring that news organizations such as The New York Times, CNN and NBC News are “fake news” and, therefore, “the enemy of the people.”

Calling news organizations fake news may not be changing many peoples’ opinions about Trump or the media, but it is creating a new dynamic between the White House and the news outlets  one in which Press Secretary Sean Spicer is spending time in the press room lecturing the White House press corps about what they should be reporting. Meanwhile, unflattering news organizations to the president are getting shut out of White House briefings, and senior adviser Stephen Miller is drawing scathing criticism from cable news hosts because of his unsettling comments about Trump’s authority over the federal government.

In other words, the Trump administration is making the news media their direct opponents in an attempt to discredit news outlets he sees as adversaries.

So, of course he doesn’t want to go to a dinner where he is expected to stand in front of those very people and crack a few light-hearted jokes; that would discredit his mission.

Instead, Trump will likely watch every second of the event on TV, take notes of every person there who makes a joke about him and draft a special tweet for each one of them. They’ll all get the “hack,” “un-funny” or “fake news” treatment, and yet another layer of aggression will be created.

If Sanders wants to call the news media Girl Scouts, maybe there’s a better analogy: If the Girl Scouts are willing to openly disagree with Trump and still offer him cookies, maybe he should stop throwing eggs at them and just take their free cookies.

Nicholas Hunter is a columnist, contact him at [email protected].