WHCA President Jeff Mason Refutes Trump's Claims About The Press In A Powerful Opening Speech
The White House Correspondents' Association president cut to the chase at the start of Saturday's annual Correspondents' Dinner. Jeff Mason opened the White House Correspondents' Dinner with a powerful statement. "We are not fake news. We are not failing. And we are not the 'enemy of the people,'" Mason said, refuting President Trump's claims about the press. His introduction gave journalists and the First Amendment a much-needed pat on the back.
The rebuttal of Trump's anti-media rhetoric was hard to miss at Saturday's black-tie dinner. Mason also proclaimed proudly that the dinner was "sold out," which seemed like both a jab at Trump and an ironic use of a factoid that he himself would proclaim at his own event. It was reminiscent of the Trump administration's post-inauguration boasting of the crowd size.
Speaking of Trump's own event, though, the president did hold his own event on Saturday instead of attending the White House Correspondents' Dinner. At a rally in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, that was meant to mark Trump's 100th day in office, the president seemed to mock the media once again. "A large group of Hollywood actors and Washington media are consoling each other in a hotel ballroom in our nation's capital right now," he said to a booing crowd.
Rather than consoling each other, the media gathered in the Washington Hilton seemed to celebrate each other — and the genuinely American institution they represent. At the start of the Correspondents' Dinner, Mason also took the time to read the text of the First Amendment. It was a poignant reminder of the constitutionally derived freedom that the press is supposed to enjoy under any presidential administration.
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press...
Legendary investigative reporter Bob Woodward shared a similar sentiment as Mason. "Mr. President, the media is not fake news," he told the audience. What's more, according to CNN's Brian Stelter, each attendee to the A-list dinner received a First Amendment pin.
Typically, the annual White House Correspondents' Dinner is known for its jokes. This year, though, given the ongoing tension between the Trump administration and the press, a serious streak ran through much of the event. Regardless of who became the butt of the jokes later in the evening, this year's White House Correspondents' Dinner should be remembered for the important institution that it honored. Without a doubt, the First Amendment was the real winner.