Trump says he will not attend White House correspondents' dinner

Ronald Reagan was the last president to sit out the event after he was shot in 1981. Photograph:( Reuters )

Reuters Washington, United States Feb 26, 2017, 03.36 AM (IST)

Continuing his adversarial relationship with the press -- or perhaps it was a natural fallout of it -- Donald Trump announced Saturday that he would not be attending the annual White House correspondents' dinner.

"I will not be attending the White House Correspondents' Association Dinner this year. Please wish everyone well and have a great evening!", Trump wrote on Twitter.

Reports said every president for almost a century -- since 1924 -- has attended the dinner at least once during his tenure. Barack Obama went eight times.   

The last president to decline the event was Ronald Reagan in 1981, but that was after he got shot. 

The White House Correspondents' Association said it would go ahead with its April 29 dinner despite Trump's absence.

The dinner "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," said Jeff Mason, a Reuters White House correspondent who heads the association this year.

Trump of course has had a very strained relationship with the press. He has called them "fake news" (CNN), "failing" (the New York Times, and a host of other outlets), and the "enemy of the people". 

Only as recently as Friday, his press secretary Sean Spicer barred five major news outlets -- the New York Times, CNN, MSNBC, Politico, and BuzzFeed -- from an off-camera briefing. (Reporters from the Associated Press and Time magazine walked out of the briefing after hearing that others had been barred from the session.)   


The reporters' group said it would go ahead with its April 29 dinner despite Trump's absence

The White House correspondents' dinner is usually attended by the highest-ranking politicians, movie stars, and of course reporters. 

The president usually makes a "funny" speech.

George W Bush made one at which he made fun of his own "Bush-isms".

In 2015, Obama, who was often thought of as being "too cool-headed", used an "anger translator". Obama would say something after which his translator -- the stand-up comic Keegan-Michael Key -- would say what he "really" meant.    

The speeches and the event generally tend to be popular, although critics say the event encourages journalists to cozy up to politicians they should cover aggressively.

Trump has attended before, and been centre of attention.

In 2011, during his speech, President Obama had taken aim at Trump and taken potshot after potshot at him. 

Trump had been hounding President Obama to release his birth certificate, to prove he had been born in the United States. Obama finally had, and at the dinner he said that perhaps now Trump would move on to the really important things, "like did we fake the moon landing."

(WION with inputs from Reuters)