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White House staff to skip correspondents’ dinner in ‘solidarity’ with Trump

President Barack Obama, left, speaks during the White House Correspondents’ Association (WHCA) Dinner at the Washington Hilton Hotel, Saturday, May 3, 2014, in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
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President Trump isn’t alone in his war on the media — members of the White House staff plan to skip this year’s White House Correspondents’ Association dinner in “solidarity” with their boss, who last month said he would forgo the journalists’ annual dinner.

Word of the White House boycott of the annual dinner, a tradition that goes back nearly a century, came in an email from the association’s president to its members, who represent the news organizations that cover the White House. The president is usually the guest of honor, and top aides and Cabinet secretaries are often among the VIP guests invited by the news organizations that purchase tickets to the black-tie affair.

“The WHCA board regrets this decision very much,” Jeff Mason, a White House correspondent for Reuters, said in an email. “We have worked hard to build a constructive relationship with the Trump White House and believe strongly that this goal is possible even with the natural tension between the press and administrations that is a hallmark of a healthy republic.”

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Mason added that despite the snub, Trump, Vice President Pence, and White House staff would still be welcome at the April 29 confab.

This year’s dinner has been fraught, given the animosity between the president and the media, who he often derides on Twitter (sample insult: “failing pile of garbage”). Other than Trump’s decision to stay home, several news organizations that typically throw parties around the dinner have cancelled their plans. And at least one media organization, People magazine, decided to skip the dinner and instead donate the money it would have spent on tickets to the WHCA, which raises money at the annual event for scholarships.

Mason, like many news organizations defending their decision to continue to participate, emphasized the dinner’s purported focus — one that has been all but obscured in recent years by the onslaught of Hollywood celebrities, source/journo flesh-pressing, and rampant commercialization.

“Only the White House can speak to the signal it wants to send with this decision,” he wrote. “But our signal is clear: We will celebrate the First Amendment on April 29 and look forward to acknowledging the important work of our terrific members and awarding scholarships to students who represent the next generation of our profession.”