In a really not-so-shocking turn of events, President Oompa-Loompa has canceled his appearance at this year’s White House Correspondents’ Dinner.
Taking to Twitter (per usual), he announced his RSVP and to “please wish everyone well and have a great evening!”
Fifteen presidents have attended at least one WHCA dinner since its inception in 1921; Trump will be the first since 1981 to decline an appearance. Ronald Reagan was the last, as he was recovering from a failed assassination attempt but still managed to give a small speech via telephone.
The White House Correspondents’ Dinner is an American tradition where, once a year, journalists who cover the presidency are celebrated and awarded. The first dinner was held in 1921 and is hosted by the White House Correspondents’ Association. Though the repertoire has changed significantly over the years, the dinner is its most high-profile activity, with the guest list rapidly becoming “more Hollywood.” Past dinners have included singing between courses, a movie, and an hour-long live performance by big-name actors. In modern times, however, the dinner is more known for its comedy roast of the President and Vice President (made even more famous by President Obama’s speech from last year).
Trump’s decline is certainly noteworthy — for someone who so famously seems to love holding rallies and seeing his name in big print, one would believe that he would want to attend an event that was all about the presidency. However, his cancellation has come during a tense time in his relationship with the press, given just a few days after CNN and other major news outlets were barred from a press conference with Sean Spicer.
Any intelligible politician knows that the press is a vital organ in any campaign (hence why Trump doesn’t seem to understand this). He accuses the press of projecting a false image of him and his administration, that the press reports “alternative facts” and, in an explosive comment, that they are “the enemy of the American people” — and then wonders why relations are not more friendly. In recent years, the presidential comedy roast at the WHCA dinner has been seen as an event that humbles the presidency and strengthens the bond between the administration and the press. Trump skipping this opportunity to mend his fraying line with the media is a huge PR faux-pas.
This is not Trump’s first WHCA dinner. In fact, he attended the one held in 2011, which was hosted by SNL comedian Seth Meyers, and sat stone-faced in the audience as Meyers and former President Barack Obama used his name as the butts of their jokes. A notable line from Meyers: “Donald Trump has been saying he will run for president as a Republican — which is surprising since I just assumed he was running as a joke.”