President Donald Trump told reporters on April 5 that he would skip the annual White House Correspondents’ Association dinner scheduled for later this month.
Trump’s comments confirm that he won’t attend the event for the third year in a row. As he was leaving the White House on his trip to the southern border in California, he told reporters that the event wasn’t to his liking.
Instead, he said he would hold one of his MAGA-style rallies as a counter-program to the April 27 press dinner. The president’s rallies often gather tens of thousands of supporters. At a recent rally in Grand Rapids, Michigan, Trump drew 14,000 supporters who filled the Van Andel Arena stadium to capacity, with nearly 20,000 outside.
“The dinner is so boring and so negative that we’re going to hold a very positive rally instead,” he said.
Presidents and first ladies traditionally attend the event, and a number of reporting awards also are distributed at the dinner. Trump hasn’t been to the dinner since he took office, but had suggested he might appear this year after organizers scrapped the usual format featuring a comedian and instead invited Pulitzer Prize-winning author Ron Chernow to speak.
Trump became the first president since Ronald Reagan to skip the dinner. Reagan didn’t attend in 1981 because he was recovering from an assassination attempt.
The association this year decided to shift to a featured speaker instead of a comic after a sharply anti-Trump performance last year by comedian Michelle Wolf that some thought was too pointed against White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee 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.
The president, who often refers to the media as “fake news” for their coverage of his presidency, recently ramped up his criticisms on Twitter. Previously, he has criticized The New York Times, CNN, ABC, and NBC for their coverage.
“The press is doing everything within their power to fight the magnificence of the phrase, MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!” he wrote on April 5.
“They can’t stand the fact that this Administration has done more than virtually any other Administration in its first 2yrs. They are truly the ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE!”
Trump said his team has yet to settle on a location for his April 27 rally, but stressed: “It’ll be a big one.”
The press is doing everything within their power to fight the magnificence of the phrase, MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN! They can’t stand the fact that this Administration has done more than virtually any other Administration in its first 2yrs. They are truly the ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 5, 2019
‘They Have to Be Accountable’
At the Michigan rally, Trump’s first one since special counsel Robert Mueller wrapped up his nearly two-year-long investigation, the president returned to familiar ground—the campaign trail—where he put those behind the investigation in the spotlight.
“After three years of lies and smears and slander, the Russia hoax is finally dead. The collusion delusion is over,” Trump told supporters at the Van Andel Arena.
The stage was set with a giant American flag as a backdrop, flanked with banners reading “Jobs Jobs Jobs!”—a different tone from Trump’s opening rally of the year in El Paso, Texas, which read “Finish the Wall.”
Donald Trump Jr., who spoke right before his father struck a victorious tone: “It’s not just our vindication, it’s your vindication … Because you stuck by us.”
The first thing the president addressed was his vindication via the Mueller report, which concluded that he and his campaign associates didn’t collude or coordinate with Russia in efforts to interfere in the 2016 U.S. election.
The president also made reference to the so-called Steele dossier, which was at the heart of the allegations that he colluded with Russia.
“All of the current and former officials who paid for, promoted, and perpetuated the single greatest hoax in the history of politics in our country, they have to be accountable,” Trump said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.