President Donald Trump has apparently decided to break with long-standing tradition and not break bread with the mainstream media, who he has branded as failing, fake and "the enemy of the American people, "at the White House Correspondents Association Dinner.
NPR said that it will be the first time in 36 years that the President has not attended.
Trump has attended as a guest at the ritzy annual affair--and been the butt of jokes from the dais--but this would have been his first time as the center of attention.
"I will not be attending the White House Correspondents' Association Dinner this year. Please wish everyone well and have a great evening!," the President tweeted Saturday. The dinner is being held April 29.
The President did not elaborate on his planned absence in 140 characters or otherwise, but it clearly appeared to be another in his efforts to delegitimize the news media.
No word on whether the WHCA will take activist and Trump opponent Michael Moore's advice and seek a stand in.
Moore tweeted: "Dear White House Correspondents Association: Please ask Alec Baldwin to stand in for Donald Trump at your annual dinner. Thank you." Baldwin's imitation of the President on Saturday Night Live has drawn the President's ire as well.
The tradition is that the President is roasted by the comedian host of the dinner, and then roasts the media back, then the journalists raise a glass to the President and the office. But Trump has already been firing plenty of shots at the White House press corps, particularly CNN. His press secretary, Sean Spicer, also excluded a number of outlets from a post press conference press gaggle Friday, drawing criticism from those outlets and others.
The dinner has become a starfest that has usually drawn a huge Hollywood contingent, from the cast of House of Cards to Steven Spielberg and George Lucas. That is another group the President has attacked as being against him.
Some news outlets have reportedly been cancelling before- and after-parties in the wake of Trump's attacks, and TBS's Samantha Bee announced last month that she would be hosting an "alternative" banquet April 29, the "Not the White House Correspondents' Dinner." Now WHCA will have to be hosting the "Not the President White House Correspondents Dinner."
The President may not have elaborated, but a surrogate provided some insight on ABC's This Week Sunday according to the White House, which included this excerpt Sunday in an e-mail to B&C/Multichannel News:
"I think we all spend enough time around each other as it is. But look, this wasn't a President who was elected to spend his time with reporters and celebrities," said Principal Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders. "This was a President who campaigned on speaking directly to Americans and that's exactly what he's going to spend his time doing. I think it's kind of naive of us to think we can all walk into a room for a couple of hours and pretend that some of that tension isn't there. You know, one of the things we say in the south: ’if a girl scout egged your house, would you buy cookies from her?’ I think this is a pretty similar scenario. There's no reason for him to go in and sit and pretend like this is going to be just another Saturday night. I think he's very focused on protecting our borders, national security, growing our economy, and instead of going and spending a night doing that, I think he'll spend the night focused on what he can do to better America.”