President Donald Trump took another step in his feud with the news media by announcing late Saturday he will break with tradition and skip the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner in April.
Trump will be the first president to stay away from the lavish annual affair since Ronald Reagan missed a dinner after he was shot, according to the association’s president, Jeff Mason, a Reuters White House reporter.
“I will not be attending the White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner this year. Please wish everyone well and have a great evening!” Trump tweeted.
Trump made no public appearances Saturday, although he had lunch with Republican governors, Rick Scott of Florida and Scott Walker of Wisconsin, to discuss states’ role in health care and replacing the Affordable Care Act.
But in a series of tweets, he remained combative toward opponents and the news media a day after he attacked reporters at a conservative activists’ conference and his press office barred CNN, The New York Times other news outlets from a briefing.
Late Friday, Trump tweeted that the “FAKE NEWS media” had “knowingly” reported untrue stories, calling it “a great danger to our country.” The targeted news outlets strongly protested the exclusion and stood by their reporting.
Trump also tweeted that his supporters should hold a rally after a week of protests against plans to replace the Affordable Care Act at the town halls of Republican House members.
And he offered hints about what he might talk about in his first address to a joint session of Congress on Tuesday.
“Great optimism for future of U.S. business, AND JOBS, with the DOW having an 11th straight record close. Big tax & regulation cuts coming!” he tweeted Saturday.
“The media has not reported that the National Debt in my first month went down by $12 billion vs a $200 billion increase in Obama first mo.,” he also tweeted, without noting President Barack Obama took office during the Great Recession.
But Trump and his top aides have repeatedly attacked the news media, calling it the “opposition.”
Trump and his aides have insisted there is no truth to stories quoting several unnamed current and former government officials saying the FBI is investigating contacts last year between Trump’s campaign aides and Russian officials.
Amid concerns about interference in a federal investigation, the White House defended chief of staff Reince Priebus for asking the FBI to publicly state what they told him privately, that the stories were untrue. The FBI declined the request.
Mason said the correspondents’ dinner will go on without Trump, calling it “a celebration of the First Amendment and the important role played by an independent news media in a healthy republic.”
Trump had one bad experience at the 2011 dinner when Obama made jokes about him and his crusade to force Obama to produce a U.S. birth certificate, which Obama did. Trump did not attend last year’s dinner.
Every president has had tensions with the news media.
In Obama’s first year, he and his top aides criticized Fox News for opinion-laden coverage, leading CNN anchor Jake Tapper, then an ABC correspondent, to challenge Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs for declaring Fox was “not a news organization.”
The issue came to a head on Oct. 22, 2009, when the Treasury Department initially excluded Fox News from interviews with executive-pay czar Kenneth Feinberg — until the other four networks in the pool said they would pass on the interview unless Fox News was included.
Spicer, however, did not broaden his briefing after The Associated Press and Time magazine walked out in protest over the barring of the Times, CNN and other news outlets.