President Trump’s war with the press has reached full Nixon.
I will not be attending the White House Correspondents' Association Dinner this year. Please wish everyone well and have a great evening!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 25, 2017
For the first time since Richard Nixon snubbed the press, the annual White House Correspondents Dinner will not have a willing president. Technically, Ronald Reagan was the last president to skip out in 1981, but he did phone in while convalescing from a gunshot wound resulting from John Hinkley’s assassination attempt.
White House Correspondents’ Association President Jeff Mason responded in a statement:
The White House Correspondents’ Association looks forward to having its annual dinner on April 29. 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. 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.
(Courtesy of NPR.)
The WHCA dinner goes back to 1921, offering a convivial safe space for the press and the president to yuck it up together. But thin-skinned Trump is not known for taking jokes well (remember the disastrous Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner last October?). And it didn’t seem like Trump’s previous WHCA dinners were much fun for him. Note the expression on his face in 2011 above.
It might be best for Trump’s ego to stay away versus suffer what would surely be the roasting from Hell itself. It also speaks to the character of the man who refuses to face the people he repeatedly calls his “enemy.” A move like this does tend to cede the high ground–if only by a few inches.
With the war on the main stream media now extending to petty exclusions of unfriendly press from normally laid-back “gaggles,” this is now more than simply trolling “fake news” tweets. It’s full Nixon on the press at the Trump White House. The WHCA dinner snub will not be soon forgotten, or forgiven.
If Trump wanted to deny any possibility of healing the breach, and give the main stream media even more reason to treat him like Nixon, who only lasted two years after 1972, he just gave them all the motivation they need.