White House press dine without Trump
The White House press corps gathered for its annual black-tie dinner, a toned-down affair after Donald Trump snubbed the event, becoming the first incumbent US president to bow out in 36 years.
Without Trump, who scheduled a rally instead to mark his 100th day in office, the usually celebrity-filled soiree hosted by the White House Correspondents’ Association took a more sober turn, even as it pulled in top journalists and Washington insiders.
Most of Trump’s administration also skipped the event in solidarity with the president, who has repeatedly accused the press of mistreatment. The president used his campaign-style gathering to again lambaste the media.
“I could not possibly be more thrilled than to be more than 100 miles away,” he told a crowd in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, calling out The New York Times, CNN and MSNBC by name.
In Washington, WHCA President Jeff Mason defended press freedom even as he acknowledged this year’s dinner had a different feel, saying attempts to undermine the media was dangerous for democracy.
“We are not fake news, we are not failing news organisations and we are not the enemy of the American people,” said Mason, a Reuters correspondent.
Instead of the typical roasts – presidents of both parties have delivered their own zingers for years – the event returned to its traditional roots of recognising reporters’ work and handing out student scholarships as famed journalists Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein presented awards.
“That’s not Donald Trump’s style,” NBC News’ Andrea Mitchell told MSNBC, referring to the self-deprecating jokes presidents in the past have made despite tensions with the press.
In a video message, actor Alec Baldwin, who has raised Trump’s ire playing him on NBC’s Saturday Night Live program also encouraged attendees.