What you heard:
President Trump tweeted that he would not be attending the White House Correspondents’ Dinner this year.
What is is:
The White House Correspondents’ Dinner is an annual event attended by White House administration officials, the press corps, and – lately – some additional famous Hollywood faces. Begun in 1921, it was traditionally dinner & a show to benefit a scholarship fund for student journalists, but for the past few decades has had more of a “roast” feel with a comedian as host.
Bonus definition: founded in 1914, the White House Correspondents’ Association is a bit older than its namesake Dinner. It’s the group of journalists that cover the President and the Administration, along with managing other things like credentialing of journalists and assignation of seats in the White House briefing room.
What it means:
The Dinner has been attended by the sitting President every year for the past three decades (the last Prez to miss the party was Reagan in 1981, who was recovering from being shot) – but then again, every sitting President of the past 30 years has been more or less qualified to hold the position AND in possession of at least a passing respect for a free and independent press. This refusal is just another battle in the ongoing, terrifying war Trump has been waging on the press.
It also means that Trump is a child who continues to disgrace the office he holds; there’s no doubt he decided to not attend after a number of high-profile news organizations started to rethink their involvement in the dinner and/or declined to host their traditional post-Dinner parties this year. This rethinking/declining, of course, was a result of the White House not allowing various outlets (CNN, New York Times, LA Times, BBC, the Guardian, Buzzfeed, Politico) into a press briefing. So much for clear and transparent government, eh?
What could happen:
More alarming than non-attendance at a dinner where he’d undoubtedly behave like a spoiled child when his meanie friend wouldn’t share the ball with him, Trump’s ongoing feud with the media is bizarre and unprecedented in recent history. A free and independent press is one of the cornerstones this nation was built on, and the Administration seems intent on only allowing their preferred news outlets access to the government. When he was a private citizen, I couldn’t have given less of a fuck to whom Trump gave exclusives – but this is the Presidency, and a taxpayer-funded democratic government doesn’t work like that. An independent press with access to the government is the first line of defense against unconstitutional acts, or deals done in secret by those who claim to serve the American people. You know who else hated the press? Nixon.
Here are a few nations with state-run media (meaning the government has editorial power over what is reported): China, Cuba, North Korea, Russia, Saudi Arabia, and Venezuela. There are more, but this should give you a pretty good idea of the company the Trump administration is beginning to keep.
On a more lighthearted note, because even I need a bit of levity sometimes, let’s hope that what happens at the Dinner is an appearance by Alec Baldwin in our orange President’s stead.