For the first time in 36 years, a President of the United States will be skipping the White House Correspondents’ dinner. For the first time since Nixon, a president will being doing so in order to find a safe space.
“I will not be attending the White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner this year. Please wish everyone well and have a great evening!” Trump tweeted this Saturday.
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
The last president not to attend the dinner was Ronald Reagan in 1981 — for good reason, considering that he’d just been shot in the chest by a would-be assassin’s bullet. But even then, The Gipper managed to call in to the event and crack a few jokes. Before Reagan, Richard Nixon skipped the event in 1972 whilst mired in the Watergate scandal. Some would argue that Trump’s absence is most reminiscent of Nixon’s, since both characterized the press as “the enemy.”
Trump’s announcement comes at a moment of high tension between the White House and many news organizations. Trump has made attacking mainstream news organizations a staple of his public remarks. Trump and his White House have accused the New York Times, CNN and others of being an “opposition party” with which he is at war.
Throughout history, many presidents still attended the event even when they were on the losing side of the public relations war. Bill Clinton attended all eight years, even after his impeachment over the Monica Lewinsky scandal.
Upon hearing Trump’s announcement, White House Correspondents’ Association President Jeff Mason issued a statement reiterating that 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.”
“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.”
Twitter had a slightly more straightforward reaction to Trump’s announcement:
.@realDonaldTrump Thank God. Last time you attended, it led to the worst mistake of this generation – you running for office.
— Nick Jack Pappas (@Pappiness) February 25, 2017
Another golf trip?
— William LeGate (@williamlegate) February 25, 2017
@realDonaldTrump “I didn’t want to go to the party, anyway!”
— Alex Zalben (@azalben) February 25, 2017
— Roland Scahill (@rolandscahill) February 25, 2017
.@realDonaldTrump Me, pathetically, in 12th grade: What?? Prom is on THAT NIGHT? Dang! I already made plans to play Yahtzee with my grandma!
— Andrew Smith (@marburyjack) February 25, 2017
seriously – u need to get help @realDonaldTrump
— ROSIE (@Rosie) February 25, 2017
— TiGGY (@TiGGyZTweetZ) February 25, 2017
@realDonaldTrump You bailed so that you could avoid the embarrassment of being boycotted:) You knew what was coming, you coward.
— Cheri Jacobus (@CheriJacobus) February 25, 2017
— Kaj-Erik Eriksen (@KajEriksen) February 25, 2017
@realDonaldTrump You just set the stage for the most epic White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner ever.
— Eric Weinrib (@EricWeinrib) February 25, 2017
— roam.dig.grow✌️ (@gigicamp) February 26, 2017