At a rally held in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania on Saturday, his 100th day in office, President Trump criticized the Washington, D.C. media. Noting the timing of his rally, Trump referenced the White House Correspondents' Dinner that was set to take place back in D.C. on Saturday night. "A large group of Hollywood actors and Washington media are consoling each other in a hotel ballroom in our nation's capital right now," Trump said, as the crowd jeered and booed. His comments about the media were nothing new, but they came just days after he suggested that he might attend next year's Correspondents' Dinner.
Trump's rally took place just before the White House Correspondents' Dinner. He announced back in February that he wouldn't attend the event. Although he never officially said as much, Trump's decision seemed to stem, at least in part, from his disdain for the mainstream political media, which the White House Correspondents' Dinner celebrates. As a candidate and a president, Trump has repeatedly discredited media outlets' reporting, tweeting about the "failing" New York Times and so-called "fake news."
The audience at his Pennsylvania rally on Saturday seemed to share that disdain. When the president brought up the Correspondents' Dinner, the pro-Trump crowd booed loudly. He egged them on, calling the Washington media "part of the problem."
Given his previous attacks on the media, Trump's comments at the Pennsylvania rally weren't surprising. However, his mocking of the event and its attendees seemed to contradict his own words from earlier this week. On Thursday, Trump reportedly told Reuters that he would "absolutely" attend the White House Correspondents' Dinner next year.
I would come next year, absolutely.
There's no telling what Trump will actually do when next year's Correspondents' Dinner rolls around, but this year, he had made his feelings clear. He will be the first president in 36 years to skip the event. As NPR has reported, the last president to miss the annual black-tie dinner was Ronald Reagan, who was recovering from an assassination attempt. Although he couldn't be there in person, President Reagan phoned into the event to offer a bit of the traditional presidential commentary.
This year, no one expects a phone-in from the president. In the ongoing battle between Trump and the mainstream media, the president struck first on Saturday with his comments at the Pennsylvania rally. The media will be sure to have their own ways of hitting back during the evening's dinner.