President Donald Trump signaled Saturday that he would not take part in the annual dinner of the White House Correspondents' Association, a star-studded gala that is normally a political imperative for the U.S. chief executive.
The formal dinner is over two months away, but Trump broke the news with a tweet saying, "I will not be attending the White House Correspondents' Association Dinner this year. Please wish everyone well and have a great evening!"
A day earlier, Trump had excoriated White House reporters and media outlets he believes are deliberately spreading "fake news" about his administration, in a speech to a large gathering of American conservatives. And a few hours later, his White House staff excluded a number of high-profile news organizations from a regular briefing, including CNN, The New York Times, Politico, the Los Angeles Times and Buzzfeed.
The White House Correspondents' Association protested the way in which the briefing was conducted. Although there was no immediate reaction to Trump's tweet, the WHCA said recently that plans for the annual dinner on April 29 were going forward, to "celebrate the First Amendment and the role a free press plays in a healthy republic."
The correspondents group presents a series of awards for political reporting at the dinner and promotes its scholarship program, "to highlight and support up-and-coming journalists who are the future of our profession."
Money raised from those attending the dinner is used to support the scholarship program. The entertainment highlight of the annual affair usually is a comedic "roast" of the president by a well-known comedian.
Because of the turbulent relationship between the U.S. press and the White House since Trump was sworn in last month, preparations for this year's dinner had been somewhat tentative. The dinner is normally the central event in a whirlwind weekend of parties and receptions hosted by news media groups, but several of the most popular gatherings already have been canceled, including those hosted in the past by Bloomberg News and Vanity Fair and The New Yorker magazines.