Donald Trump has ratcheted up his feud with the American media by announcing he will skip the annual White House correspondents’ dinner, the first United States president to do so in 36 years.
By boycotting the event Trump breaks a tradition that began in 1921 in which journalists invite the president for a light-hearted roast.
“I will not be attending the White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner this year. Please wish everyone well and have a great evening!” Trump announced on Saturday via Twitter.
The last time a president missed the event was in 1981, when Ronald Reagan was recovering after being shot in an assassination attempt. Reagan, however, phoned in with friendly remarks.
Richard Nixon, who despised the media, skipped the event in 1972.
Trump frequently blasted the mainstream American press during the election campaign, and as president has intensified his media-bashing.
He criticized the New York Times yesterday for a television ad that the newspaper was scheduled to air during the Oscars ceremony stating “The truth is more important now than ever.”
“For first time the failing @nytimes will take an ad (a bad one) to help save its failing reputation. Try reporting accurately & fairly!” Trump tweeted.
The White House Correspondents’ Association said it would proceed with this year’s dinner, set for April 29.
Some news groups have already pulled out of events related to the dinner. Conde Nast, publisher of The New Yorker, Vanity Fair have all canceled their before-and-after-parties, and Bloomberg is reportedly pulling out as a party co-sponsor.
The dinner normally features a big-name comedian to rib the president.
Trump’s cancelation comes after the White House denied access on Friday to an off-camera briefing to several major US media outlets, including CNN and The New York Times. Smaller outlets that have provided favorable coverage were allowed to attend the briefing by spokesman Sean Spicer.
The New York Times said the decision was “an unmistakable insult to democratic ideals,” CNN called it “an unacceptable development,” and The Los Angeles Times warned the incident had “ratcheted up the White House’s war on the free press” to a new level.
As protests erupted a December interview re-emerged in which Spicer declared that the Trump White House would never ban a news outlet.
“Conservative, liberal or otherwise, I think that’s what makes a democracy a democracy versus a dictatorship,” he said.
Ari Fleischer, a former George W. Bush spokesman, said the White House’s stance was “unwise and counterproductive,” but added that it should be kept in perspective.
“Press secretaries need to meet with the whole press,” Fleischer told CNN.
“But beyond that, there is nothing unusual about presidents meeting with selected reporters, and White House staffs do it all the time too,” said Fleischer.