The White House Correspondents' Association announced March 28 the White House staff will be skipping this year's White House Correspondents' Dinner "out of 'solidarity'" with President Donald Trump. The announcement was made one month before the annual social event.
The WHCA dinner is an annual event held to honor journalists covering politics and the White House, award scholarships and build relationships between administrations and the media. The dinner features speeches and a good-natured roasting of the commander in chief by a famous comedian. The president then follows with his own roasting of the press. Typically, the event attracts a number of celebrities.
In the statement, WHCA President Jeff Mason wrote, "The WHCA board regrets this decision very much."
Trump announced in February that he would be skipping the dinner. He didn't attend the 2016 dinner either, citing campaign commitments. The White House Correspondents' Dinner has been Washington political tradition since 1920.
The Hill reported that in a Feb. 27 interview with Fox News, Trump said he'd be open to attending the event in 2018, but felt this wasn't a good year to attend. After he made the announcement, Trump tweeted, "Please wish everyone well and have a great evening!"
Other presidents have missed the event. Both Jimmy Carter and Richard Nixon skipped the dinners at least one time. Ronald Reagan was the last president to skip, when he missed the dinner in 1981 because he was recovering from an assassination attempt, reports USA Today.
Since Trump stepped into the political sphere, the WHCA dinner has become a contentious event for him. In 2011, with Trump seated in the audience, former President Barack Obama singled Trump out and made him the butt of many jokes.
At the time, Trump was engaged in a campaign of misinformation known as "birtherism," where Trump cast doubt that Obama was a natural-born citizen. Many political writers have speculated that Obama's reply during that dinner is what ultimately lead Trump to run for president.
The White House staff's announcement comes amid worsening relations between the Trump administration and the media. Many of the officials in the Trump administration, including the president, have used allegations of "fake news" and bias to cast doubts on the validity of unflattering reports and negative coverage.
The WHCA president lamented the decision. "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."
The annual event is scheduled for April 29.