Trump announced this week that he would not be attending the White House Correspondents Dinner, making him the first president to miss the event since Ronald Reagan in 1981. Reagan missed the event because someone had tried to assassinate him, while Trump is missing it because both he and the press are asses.
Trump and the media need to get on better terms. It’s not professional for him to ban top news organizations from White House press briefings, and it’s not professional for news organizations to let their reporters break huge stories based on dossiers which allege that the president special orders Russian hotel rooms to pee on prostitutes because he knew Barack Obama would be staying in the same room – if even R. Kelly would think a sex allegation isn’t credible, it probably isn’t true.
This dysfunctional relationship forced Trump to skip the event, and the feeling was mutual. Journalists not only called for others to boycott the dinner, they called for others to boycott those not boycotting the dinner. Now that we have boycotts on top of boycotts, we need an app to keep track of all the things we’re supposed to be boycotting. Who knows how Americans are so fat and poor given that we’re not supposed to be eating anything or spending any money anywhere.
The White House Correspondence Dinner used to be a fun event where the president would joke around. But given the recent bad blood between Trump and the media, the playful roast would be about as charming as a Taylor Swift / Kanye West duet.
The dinner would have to be either unwatchably viscous, or as fake as the smiles on best actress nominees after they didn’t win. It wouldn’t be fair to force a comedian to act like things are normal, when everyone knows that underneath the table the guests are sharpening their silverware to gouge the president in the thigh with a salad fork.
The White House Correspondence Dinner was certainly easier when Obama was in office, a sign that perhaps the press was too chummy with him. If there was a Frost/Nixon style movie called Cooper / Obama, rather than the journalist digging in and trying to get to the bottom of the Watergate scandal, the movie would focus on Cooper’s quest to become Obama’s spotter at the gym.
The most controversial White House Correspondence Dinner featured Stephen Colbert, when the comedian roasted President Bush. The speech was not well received at the time, as many found it to be disrespectful to the sitting president – though it eventually achieved high praise from internet viewers. Colbert did his routine in his Republican character, and many found it mean-spirited because of jokes like this:
Mr. Colbert tried, at the outset, to soften up the president by mocking his intelligence, saying that he and Mr. Bush were “not so different,” by which he meant, he explained, “we’re not brainiacs on the nerd patrol.”
It goes without saying that times have changed. If a comedian made a similar joke at Trump’s dinner, they would be accused of being Hitler’s court jester, a crime Jimmy Fallon was accused of during the campaign. No crack would be mean-spirited enough. The only way a comedian wouldn’t be accused of “throwing out softballs” would be to hire Randy Johnson to physically throw 98 mph fastballs at Trump’s face. Only then would the left’s quest for vengeance be satisfied.
While the above may seem far-fetched, imagine Samantha Bee as the host. What if she took the stage and refused to tell jokes. Instead she walked up to Trump, called him an ass, and slapped him across the face. Is there any doubt she would be lauded as a hero by much of the media?
That’s why Trump was forced to cancel the event. Presidents were arguably already degrading the office by showing up to be the butt of the joke, and that certainly would be the case here. There simply was no possible good outcome to Trump showing up, so he did the smart thing in not attending.