This year’s White House Correspondents’ Dinner is unlike any other. Traditionally, the night would bring together political reporters, well-known Hollywood comedians, A-list celebrities, and White House staffers to listen to the president take a few lighthearted, comical jabs about how he was covered in the press — and the president would go through some roasting as well, all in good faith, of course. But this year is much different as President Donald Trump vowed months ago that he would be partake in this decades-long tradition. So if he’s not there — at one of Washington’s most social events of the year — then where is Trump during the WHCD and what is he doing instead?
On what is his 100th day in office — a milestone he has repeatedly disputed since he took office, but made dozens of promises for during his campaign — Trump is more than a hundred miles away from the capital. The president tweeted on Saturday morning that he'd be hosting a rally in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania with his core supporters two hours before the WHCD kicked off.
“Looking forward to RALLY in the Great State of Pennsylvania tonight at 7:30,” he wrote. “Big crowd, big energy!”
According to NPR, when Trump was asked about the WHCD back in Washington before it took place, he said: "I hope they have a good dinner. But ours is going to be much more exciting, I think. We have a big crowd. We sold thousands and thousands of tickets."
Even at the rally, Trump did not ignore the annual dinner that was happening back in Washington, which was met with boos from the crowd when he mentioned it. The president continued to slam the WHCD by saying a "large group of Hollywood actors and Washington media are consoling each other in a hotel ballroom in our nation's capital right now," according to CNN.
"I could not be possibly more thrilled than to be more than 100 miles away from Washington swamp... and look at the media back there, they would actually rather be here, I have to tell you," he continued as the crowd cheered and chanted "CNN sucks! CNN sucks!"
Presidents and the press have always had a complicated history, but Trump's hostile relationship with the media is a new level of ferocity, having called it "fake" and "dishonest" and even "the enemy of the people."
But, aside from this unprecedented animosity with the press, Trump missing the WHCD makes him the first president since 1981 to do so. (President Ronald Reagan skipped it at the time because he was in the hospital recovering from a gunshot wound after a failed assassination attempt, but still managed to call into the dinner.) Trump's presidency has been far from conventional, so is his absence from tonight's festivities really much of a surprise?