There’s chatter that President Trump may bail on Washington’s glitziest dinner of the year.
But if he does, would anyone miss him? And why would he miss a chance to skewer the constituents he hates most: the media — the “most dishonest” people on Earth. Or, as Trump’s man whisperer Steve Bannon puts it: The Opposition Party.
Journalists around town are deeply divided on the subject. And not by political ideology. Some think the White House Correspondents’ Association should suck it up and invite Trump. Others say Trump should come and not be a wimp about raising scholarship money for budding journalists.
And still others insist that Trump attending the dinner is a big mistake.
“I’m not sure what Trump will do, or should do. He’s so mercurial, even if he says he’ll go, he could change his mind in the car on the way over,” SiriusXM “Press Pool” host Julie Mason, a former WHCA board member, told The Mirror. “He bailed on the Alfalfa Club. No idea if he’ll go to Gridiron. What everyone forgets is this dinner is neither a tribute to the president, nor a roast, nor is it a party for celebrities. It’s our association’s annual scholarship and awards dinner.”
She added, “Right now I am fairly amazed by the bogus, high-minded and outraged columnists and others calling for an end to the dinner. Will they in turn stop asking for extra tickets to the White House Christmas party? Will they refuse to go?”
New York Mag’s newest writer Olivia Nuzzi said reporters need to get over themselves about attending the dinner, but wouldn’t blame the president if he blows it off.
“I think it’s perfectly fine for publications to opt out of buying tables at the dinner or hosting parties if they wish, and similarly fine for the President to decide not to go,” she said in an email. “It would be wrong for him to be disinvited, and it looks petty when members of the press call for the dinner to be canceled.”
Nuzzi asked, “All of that said, who really gives a fuck? Reporters, in all of their self importance, have convinced themselves that this silly dinner and constellation of related events matters. It doesn’t. And I don’t know about you, but I can mingle with sources and subjects and remain a fair critic at the same time. I wish everyone in this town would get a grip.”
Sydney Elaine Leathers, who formerly phone sexted with Anthony Weiner before destroying his New York mayoral race, called Trump a p-word he knows all too well.
“I would be shocked if he didn’t skip it,” Leathers, a porn actress, told The Mirror. “He’s too thin skinned to handle it. I think it’s sad that I’m able to handle media scrutiny with more humor and grace than our president. He’s a pussy.”
WaPo media columnist Margaret Sullivan reported on Sunday that Trump’s press secretary Sean Spicer has said that he doesn’t know yet if Trump will attend the famed White House Correspondents’ Dinner, which notoriously attracts a lot of Hollywood celebs like Kim Kardashian, Sean Penn, Chelsea Handler, Gabourey Sidibe — who can be mean as a snake when she visits Washington.
At 2011’s White House Correspondents’ dinner, the air inside the fancy Washington Hilton ballroom became incredibly tense when President Obama lampooned Trump, who sat there stone faced. You can relive that roasting here.
“I think he should bail — and I think he will,” said a White House reporter. “It’s run it’s course anyway. Obama mocking him was one of the triggers for him running for president so we can blame them for the mess we’re in now.”
Brett Decker, who penned The Conservative Case For Trump just before the election, said Trump should most definitely not attend.
“President Trump is brilliant at using biased media coverage to his advantage by generating constant exposure for his agenda that overshadows everybody else,” he said.
“But I don’t think he should go into the coliseum to wrestle with the wild animals this time. It confers legitimacy on the media blood sport, which has shed all rules of fair play. Intrinsic to having a free press is being a fair press, which certainly doesn’t exist anymore. That changes how one interacts with the Fourth Estate.”
But some observers believe Trump’s attendance would earn the President points with the media he claims to despise.
A TV insider remarked to The Mirror, “The WHCA will no doubt invite him as it has invited every president. President Trump going and handling the jokes well and being self-deprecating would show he’s a good sport.”
Conservative radio host Derek Hunter remarked, “I’d think he’d want one victory lap to rub their faces in it, then bail.”
Jimmy Williams, a lefty journo who works for ScrippsNews and hosts DecodeDC podcast, said Trump needs to go to the White House Correspondents’ Dinner for the most obvious reason of them all.
“He should attend for myriad reasons not least of which include he’s sadly gaining a persona of being thin skinned,” he said. “Going and facing his critics can would go a long way in alleviating that problem. But let me state the obvious: the WHCA covers the White House and he kinda lives there.”
A longtime GOP operative said not inviting Trump would play right into his hand about how awful the media is.
“I don’t really care if he goes or not, but not inviting him would be a mistake and play into the narrative his team is trying to create about the press being against them,” said the operative.
But not everyone thinks Trump attending the dinner is a good idea.
“I think it’d be awfully hard for him to spend his entire campaign and presidency beating the shit out of the media and then turn around and attend the biggest media ratfuck of the year,” said Peter Ogburn, executive producer of “The Bill Press Show.”
Ogburn’s boss disagreed with him.
“Yes, I think Trump should attend WHCD. It’s the ultimate fuck you. He can say: I was there in 2011 when you all made fun of me – and look at me now,” said lefty radio host Bill Press. “Actually, I’m thinking of going to Samantha Bee’s alternative facts dinner instead.”
I joked that I hoped Press was looking forward to not being invited to Tammy Haddad‘s annual WHCD garden party. (Haddad snubbed Press and some other journalists a few years back, even after they donated to her charity.)
“I haven’t been invited to Tammy’s for three years, and wouldn’t go now if invited,” he said.
Scottie Nell Hughes, who vigorously defended Trump during the campaign as a surrogate, said Trump needs to be there.
“I don’t think President Trump should skip,” she told The Mirror.
Unlike some others, Hughes doesn’t think Trump is thin-skinned.
“The President has always had a good sense of humor even at jokes made about him,” she said. “While some light hearted jabs are expected, any which crosses over the line and shows disrespect to the Office of the President or meant to malign President Trump will only make the journalist look petty and obviously biased. This only further damages their credibility with the American people. Plus, look at what Seth Meyers did and how the American people were influenced by his joke.”
Still, the expert opinion is that no, Trump should not go.
Publicist Kurt Bardella, who resigned from Breitbart News after he couldn’t support the site’s blatant pro-Trump coverage, told The Mirror that Trump should not attend the dinner.
“After labeling the media the ‘opposition,’ it makes zero sense for Trump to attend the WHCD,” Bardella said by email. “His entire brand is anti-establishment and anti-elite. The WHCD should take the high-ground and invite the sitting President. What the WHCD should really do is completely re-evaluate the event in it’s current form and make it less about inviting A-List celebrities to sit at your table or flashy-cameo-filled videos, and more about substance. The media would be validating Trump’s central thesis of an out-of-touch press corps if they host a lavish black-tie party for themselves and fill social media feeds with selfies with celebrities.”
But what happens when Trump gets up there and calls NBC’s Chuck Todd “Sleepy Eyes” and such?
Bardella reasoned, “Well, if the event is choreographed the way it always has been, Trump will be the subject of a few hundred jokes too, so you gotta give as good as you get.”
Asked for his expert advice as a publicist on what the WHCA should do, Bardella replied, “I’d change how the event is choreographed and make it about substance and real people.”
Conservative Daily Beast writer Matt Lewis said Trump should attend and “endure” hearing jokes about himself. Riiiight. We can all see Trump doing that, right?
“I’d like to see him go,” Lewis wrote by email. “He should take some good-natured jabs at the press, and we’ll as make some self-deprecating remarks about himself (he should bring in some good writers to help him with the jokes). And he should laugh and endure it when some comedian makes fun of him. This would be the right thing to do – -which is why both sides will probably ignore this advice.”
A longtime Washington editor also thinks it’s in Trump’s best interest to go.
“Trump should come and both the president and the media should grow some thick skin and enjoy the night,” the source said. “The most interesting part of the dinner is: Who is going to host it? What if it’s someone that President Trump doesn’t like? Will that cause him to skip the event?”
Unfortunately, the White House press office did not return repeated requests for comment.