This has been a contentious matter. According to one report: “The White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner, also known as the “Nerd Prom,” marks the time of year when the red carpet comes to Washington, when celebrities mingle with (or dodge) politicians, when Republicans and Democrats break bread — not each other — and when the President of the United States willingly (or reluctantly) attends his own roast”.
It continues: “(CNN)Donald J. Trump hates a lot of things, from “fake news” to intelligence leaks to even Nordstrom. But my money says the thing Trump hates the most is being laughed at. And one of the worst comedic beat downs Trump ever took on national TV was in 2011, the last time Trump attended the White House Correspondents’ Dinner (WHCD), where he was comically crushed by comedian Seth Meyers (not to mention President Obama, who also got in a few good jabs). That’s why it shouldn’t surprise anyone that Trump announced on Saturday night via Twitter, two months ahead of time, that he wouldn’t be showing up at this year’s WHCD: “I will not be attending the White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner this year. Please wish everyone well and have a great evening.” Trump will be the first President since Ronald Reagan in 1981 to miss this annual tradition. And the only reason Reagan missed it was because he was recovering from injuries sustained in an assassination attempt”.
Given the ongoing war between Trump and “the very fake news”, evidenced recently by some of his worst detractors being excluded from a private press briefing, and what one might extrapolate from his rather gladiatorial character when up against those who oppose him, Trump’s non attendance should come as no surprise. Whether he was right to make this sleight so early on is a matter of debate, and already I have read a number of comments to the effect that what he did was a mistake (and a lot worse). Regarding an ongoing war with sections of the press who will no doubt be at that dinner, there is little doubt. Neither (in my view) is an obvious character flaw (picked up by the above report) that while Trump is adept criticizing and ridiculing others, he is not good when on the receiving end. Some might say that Trump has missed a good opportunity to engage with his enemies in a civilized manner. One recalls his predecessor, Barrack Obama, relishing and rising to these occasions, but then from what I can make out, his relationship with the press taken as a whole was a lot better than Trump’s.
The issue of Fake News and how to respond to reports that are derogatory and (in one’s view) false, is a moot point and a hot topic. As I have argued in my blogs, while Trump is not above justifiable criticism and ought to come to terms that the likes of CNN and the New York Times do not see things with the same lens as him, unlike for example Info Wars and Fox News (like as has been invariably the case with all his predecessors), he is right to be outraged when what is reported is untrue. I have no doubt many examples may be cited and debated on, but the issue of honest reporting, even if the reporter does see things differently, is an important one. I think by the way, while the President is right to open up press briefing to new outlets, he should not forego those critical of him in the process.
There is no doubt the burden of responsibility on the President is a heavy one and he might well see his time better spent meeting with groups of veterans or security operatives than attending a dinner with those he has little respect for and be the butt of their jokes. It is his call of course and, if it were me, I might have responded differently, but what does concern me is that we do have a free press that will report on what they see as important, yet with integrity.