Donald Trump has ordered members of his staff and administration to boycott the White House Correspondents’ Association annual dinner on Saturday.
The decision came as the US president spent much of Tuesday unleashing another tirade of attacks against the media.
Trump had already announced that he would skip the televised event in Washington for the third consecutive year, branding it “boring” and “negative”, and would instead to stage a “Make America great again” rally in Green Bay, Wisconsin.
But the decision that no one from his team could take part was announced to White House staff by cabinet secretary Bill McGinley at their morning meeting, Reuters reported, an unpleasant surprise for those who had already accepted invitations.
“The president and members of his administration will not attend the White House Correspondents’ Dinner this year,” a White House official told Reuters. “Instead, Saturday evening, President Trump will travel to Green Bay, Wisconsin, where he will hold a campaign rally.”
The White House Correspondents’ Association dinner has been attended by presidents most years since the organization was founded in 1914. The group raises money for scholarship, gives out reporting awards and honors the first amendment, which protects the freedom of the press.
White House officials were absent in 2017 but last year’s guests included Trump’s counselor Kellyanne Conway; the White House press secretary, Sarah Sanders; her predecessor Sean Spicer; the former chief of staff Reince Priebus; and Kirstjen Nielsen, then the homeland security secretary. Comedian Michelle Wolf stuns media with attack on Trump’s team – video
But comedian Michelle Wolf’s risque turn savaged Sanders, who was seated nearby, drawing so much criticism that the association played safer with this year’s guest speaker: the Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Ron Chernow, author of a biography of founding father Alexander Hamilton.
In a statement responding to the boycott decision, Olivier Knox, the association’s president, said: “We’re looking forward to an enjoyable evening of celebrating the First Amendment and great journalists past, present and future.”
Trump – mocked at the dinner by Barack Obama in 2011 – has bitterly denounced the mainstream news media as “fake news” and routinely directs his supporters to watch the Fox News channel.
The criticism has intensified following the release of a report from the special counsel Robert Mueller on Russia’s interference in the 2016 election. The report offered damning details on Trump’s efforts to thwart Mueller’s investigation but stopped short of concluding he had committed a crime.
He wrote on Tuesday evening: “You mean the Stock Market hit an all-time record high today and they’re actually talking impeachment!? Will I ever be given credit for anything by the Fake News Media or Radical Liberal Dems? NO COLLUSION!”
The president has also stopped Sanders conducting daily press briefings. On Tuesday, the White House set a record of 43 days for the longest stretch without a briefing. There have been just two so far in 2019.