Following threats by some members of the White House Correspondents’ Association to boycott the group’s 2017 Dinner, President Donald Trump has said that he will not be attending.
Trump’s decision came just as the frosty relations between him and the media worsened with some White House Correspondents shut out of a press briefing on Friday.
“I will not be attending the White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner this year. Please wish everyone well and have a great evening!” Trump tweeted.
The White House Correspondents’ Association, in a statement, said it took note of the president’s announcement and said the dinner will “continue to be a celebration of the First Amendment and the important role played by an independent news media in a healthy republic”.
Every sitting president since 1924 has attended the correspondents’ dinner at least once, according to reports.
Former President Barack Obama attended eight times.
Sitting Presidents traditionally make a light-hearted speech at the annual event.
Trump has himself attended the dinner in 2011, and Obama had joked that Trump will turn the White House into a casino if he became president and made fun of rumours, then propagated by Trump, that Obama was not born in the U.S.
Trump had said on Friday that in spite of his criticism of certain U.S. media organizations, he was not against the media, after several weeks of controversial statements about some sections.
However, hours after, his office banned some major news outlet such as CNN, New York Times and Los Angeles Times from covering Friday’s briefing at the White House.
The action led some White House Correspondents to also boycott the press briefing in solidarity with their colleagues.
The White House Correspondents’ Association also threatened to challenge the action, which it said was an affront on the First Amendment.
“I’m not against the press. I don’t mind bad stories if I deserve them. And I tell you, I love good stories, but we won’t. I don’t get too many of them.
They are very dishonest people. In fact, in covering my comments, the dishonest media did not explain that I called the fake news the enemy of the people – the fake news.
They dropped off the word ‘fake’. And all of the sudden, the story became, the media is the enemy. They take the word ‘fake’ out, and now I’m saying, oh, no, this is no good. But that’s the way they are. So I’m not against the media,” Trump said.
Trump, however, said there were very honourable media men writing very fair stories.
“There are some great reporters around. They’re talented, they’re as honest as the day is long. They’re great.”
Trump, who said most U.S. media got his election polls and subsequent polls about him wrongly, claimed that he loves the First Amendment.
“Nobody loves it better than me. Nobody. I mean, who uses it more than I do? But the First Amendment gives all of us – it gives it to me, it gives it to you, it gives all Americans, the right to speak our minds freely; It gives you the right and me the right to criticize fake news, and criticize it strongly”.