White House: Trump admin officials will skip press dinner

WASHINGTON (AP) — The guest list for the annual White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner on Saturday will look a lot like it did in 2017: Neither President Donald Trump nor those who work for him plan to attend.

Just four days before reporters and their guests were to gather at the event to celebrate journalism, the White House said Tuesday that administration officials are going to stay away.

Trump himself had previously said he wouldn’t attend. But many White House staffers and other administration officials, including some who attended in 2018, had accepted invitations to be there as guests of various news organizations.

In a statement responding to the boycott decision, Olivier Knox, the correspondent association’s president, said: “We’re looking forward to an enjoyable evening of celebrating the First Amendment and great journalists past, present and future.”

Tuesday’s announcement came hours after Trump, who has had a fraught relationship with the news media, renewed his Twitter attacks on news organizations and personalities. But in a nod to his appeal for the visuals of journalism over printed words about him, the president later appeared in the Oval Office for a private session with prize-winning photojournalists honored by the White House News Photographers Association.

Trump, who is skipping the dinner for the third consecutive year, earlier this month labeled the event “boring” and “negative.” Instead, he’s holding a campaign rally Saturday night in Green Bay, Wisconsin.

Trump frequently criticizes news organizations and declares stories he doesn’t like “fake news.” In one of Tuesday’s tweets, he falsely claimed that, back in the “old days,” presidents whose terms coincided with good economies “were basically immune from criticism.” President Bill Clinton presided over a booming economy yet was the subject of regular criticism and was impeached.

Presidents and first ladies have traditionally attended the dinner, which serves as a celebration of the First Amendment as well as a fundraiser for college scholarships. A number of reporting awards are given out as well.

Trump had suggested he might attend this year’s dinner after organizers overhauled the program to replace the customary comedian, who roasts any number of attendees, with a speaker. Pulitzer Prize-winning author Ron Chernow will address Saturday’s audience.

Last year, some dinner attendees and commentators complained that a sharply anti-Trump performance by comedian Michelle Wolf was too pointed and unfairly targeted White House press secretary Sarah Sanders and other White House staff.

Chernow, a biographer of presidents and statesmen including George Washington and Alexander Hamilton, is expected to speak about the importance of the First Amendment. Chernow, like many of his fellow historians, strongly opposed Trump’s candidacy in 2016 and labeled him a “demagogue.”

Trump was famously mocked at the dinner by President Barack Obama at the 2011.

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