Why didn’t Donald Trump ever attend the White House Correspondents’ Dinner as president?
The annual event allows politicians, journalists and celebrities to share an evening, but the former President was not impressed with jokes at his expense.
The White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner returns as an in-person event this year after a two-year absence due to covid-19.
The show will be hosted by Trevor Noah of Comedy Central’s The Daily Show, and President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden will be in attendance. President Biden is expected to deliver remarks, which typically includes a few light-hearted barbs at the expense of some of those in attendance.
Traditionally the Correspondents’ Dinner is always attended by the President, but Donald Trump refused to show up for the dinner during his time in the White House.
Why did Trump snub the Correspondents’ Dinner?
Rarely one to shy from the spotlight, Trump’s refusal to attend an event held, at least partially, in his honour may seem surprising. However the tradition of the Correspondents’ Dinner is far from the cosy red carpet events.
In 2017 Trump became the first President in decades to fail to attend. The last one to do so was Ronald Reagan in 1981, although he was recovering from being shot after an assassination attempt. Reagan, however, did phone in to the event and joked about his ordeal.
Humour is undoubtedly a central part of the Correspondents’ Dinner tradition, and one which Trump seemed unwilling to engage with.
Announcing the decision, Trump tweeted: “I will not be attending the White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner this year. Please wish everyone well and have a great evening!”
Shortly before the 2017 event, White House deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told ABC’s This Week that Trump’s fractious relationship with the press was at the centre of the President’s decision.
She said: “I think it’s kind of naive of us to think that we can all walk into a room for a couple of hours and pretend that some of that tension isn’t there.”
Trump had bad experiences of Correspondents’ Dinners
While the 2017 event was the first of Trump’s presidency, he actually had experience of the Correspondents’ Dinner from previous years. He was frequently the butt of the jokes at the annual event, which feature a comedian gently ribbing the gathered crowd of journalists, politicians and celebrities.
The 2011 was perhaps the most chastening for Trump, coming as the businessman was hinting at a run for the presidency the following year. Trump was pushing the ‘birther’ conspiracy theory and received a cutting response from the then-President.
Obama joked: “No one is happier—no one is prouder—to put this birth certificate matter to rest than The Donald. And that’s because he can finally get back to focusing on the issues that matter: Like, did we fake the moon landing? What really happened in Roswell? And where are Biggie and Tupac?”
Pretty harmless stuff, but the risk of another public roasting was clearly not appealing for Trump and he refused to attend each of the dinners held during his single term as President.