Mon, Feb 27, 2017 - Page 4 News List

Trump to skip correspondents’ dinner

FOURTH ESTATE:The White House Correspondents’ Association said would go ahead with the event, to highlight the ‘important role played by an independent news media’

AFP, WASHINGTON

US President Donald Trump ratcheted up an increasingly hostile feud with the media on Saturday, announcing he would skip a century-old annual correspondents’ dinner one day after an fierce row erupted over press access to the White House.

The White House triggered widespread outrage on Friday by denying access to an off-camera briefing to several major media outlets, including CNN, the Guardian the BBC, the Los Angeles Times, the New York Times and Politico.

Smaller outlets that have provided favorable coverage of Trump’s administration, such as Breitbart and the One America News Network, received a green light to attend the briefing by White House spokesman Sean Spicer.

The move came just hours after Trump renewed his assault on the mainstream US media by calling it “the enemy of the people,” in an ongoing battle in which he has labeled the fourth estate “fake news” and the “opposition party.”

The White House Correspondents’ Association said it was “protesting strongly” against the decision to selectively deny media access and would bring it up with the Republican administration.

The New York Times described the White House decision as “an unmistakable insult to democratic ideals,” while CNN called it “an unacceptable development” and the Los Angeles Times warned that the incident had “ratcheted up the White House’s war on the free press” to a new level.

Trump doubled down in the stand-off on Saturday when he announced he would not attend the White House Correspondents’ Dinner on April 29, breaking with an annual tradition in which the US president is the guest of honor at a light-hearted roast held by journalists and studded with celebrities.

“I will not be attending the White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner this year. Please wish everyone well and have a great evening!” Trump tweeted.

The association, organizer of the event which dates back to 1921, said it would go on as planned as a “celebration of the First Amendment [on freedom of the press] and the important role played by an independent news media in a healthy republic.”

Trump’s chief strategist Steve Bannon, a former head of the right-wing news Web site Breitbart, on Thursday said that relations with the media would only get worse as the president rolls out his agenda.

It is not uncommon for Republican and Democratic administrations to brief a limited number of select reporters on specific themes.

However, Friday’s event was initially billed as a regular briefing open to credentialed media before it was reconfigured as a closed event for a cherry-picked group of participants, taking place in Spicer’s office.

A number of outlets that regularly cover the White House, including newswires Reuters and Bloomberg, attended. They are part of what is known as the “pool,” a small group of journalists who have access to certain events and share the contents with other media.

The Associated Press boycotted the event in protest at the exclusion of certain colleagues. Agence France-Presse was not included despite being part of the press pool. Its journalist protested, and attended the briefing uninvited.

During the off-camera briefing, Spicer said that the White House has shown an “abundance of accessibility... making ourselves, our team and our briefing room more accessible than probably any previous administration.”

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