President Donald Trump is taking his ball and going home—or, rather, ditching the ball and going home.
Late on Saturday afternoon, the leader of the free world tweeted that he would break with decades of tradition and not attend the White House Correspondents' Dinner, the annual fête held by the White House Correspondents' Association to raise money for college journalism scholarships.
"I will not be attending the White House Correspondents' Association Dinner this year," Trump tweeted. "Please wish everyone well and have a great evening!"
The announcement, on the heels of a closed press briefing with White House press secretary Sean Spicer on Friday from which numerous major outlets were barred, is yet another escalation of Trump's increasingly heated battle with the journalists assigned to cover his administration. In recent weeks, the president has lambasted as "fake news" press outlets that have critically covered the Trump White House's shaky first month, and even declared on numerous occasions that journalists were the “enemy of the American people.”
The fate of this year's WHCA dinner, derided as "Nerd Prom" by political journalists who see the black-tie gala as a thirsty display of starfuckery and too much coziness between government officials and the people assigned to cover them, was already on the ropes before Trump announced his decision. Vanity Fair and The New Yorker—two major publications which traditionally throw lavish afterparties for the crème de la crème of Washington's political and media elite—announced last week that they would not be participating in the dinner; financial news titan Bloomberg later announced that its own famed post-gala soiree would be cancelled this year as well, due to a lack of interest.
The absence of a "headliner" from the White House—the dinner traditionally features a comedy set by an A-list entertainer, as well as (attempted) humorous remarks from the president himself—may add further interest in a competing event across town. Samantha Bee, host of TBS’ Full Frontal, is hosting alternative gala on the same night, titled "Not the White House Correspondents' Dinner.”
Jeff Mason, Reuters' White House correspondent and the president of the WHCA, issued a statement that the association "takes note" of Trump's announcement, but vowing that the dinner "has been and will continue to be a celebration of the First Amendment and the important role played by an independent news media in a healthy republic."
Trump's declaration, in addition to heightening tensions between his administration and the press that are reaching Nixonian levels, rebuffs the same banquet that has been cited as the incident kicking off his political career. It was at the 2011 WHCA, during the height of the Trump-stoked birther conspiracism that accused President Barack Obama of lying about his birthplace, that the real-estate mogul was roasted to a crisp by a duo of comedy sets by comedian Seth Meyers and the commander-in-chief himself.
“Obviously, we all know about your credentials and breadth of experience,” Obama said to Trump, who sat stonefaced at the Washington Post's table. “For example, just recently, in an episode of Celebrity Apprentice, at the steakhouse, the men’s cooking team did not impress the judges from Omaha Steaks. And there was a lot of blame to go around. But you, Mr. Trump, recognized that the real problem was a lack of leadership. And so ultimately, you didn’t blame Lil Jon or Meat Loaf. You fired Gary Busey. And these are the kind of decisions that would keep me up at night."
Trump, whose outer-borough insecurities helped propel him into the stratosphere of New York society, was humiliated. Six years later, the apparent hope is that this time, the "dishonest media" will be the one to leave the ballroom with egg on its face.