On the heels of Donald Trump's passive-aggressive announcement that he will be skipping the White House Correspondents' Association Dinner, Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders confirmed that this was not some sort of scheduling conflict, but rather the result of "tension" with the press that Trump is unable to set aside.
Donald Trump’s war with the free press hit a fever pitch this week following the revelation that his White House colluded with the FBI to quash a story about investigations of the Trump campaign’s contacts with Russia. On Friday, Trump’s press shop canceled an on-camera briefing and banned outlets that have done Russia reporting from the off-camera briefing that took place in its stead.
Then, perhaps as a way to preempt a livid White House Correspondents’ Association (WHCA), Trump cheerfully announced that he would be skipping the group’s annual dinner:
I will not be attending the White House Correspondents' Association Dinner this year. Please wish everyone well and have a great evening!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 25, 2017
In case there was any chance of Trump’s sentiments being perceived as genuine, Trump White House Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders dispelled that notion when she told ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos that Trump views the press as Girl Scouts who have egged his house — her actual words:
STEPHANOPOULOS: Final question, we heard yesterday in the president’s tweet, he’s not going to the White House Correspondents’ Dinner. Why?
SANDERS: George, I think it’s pretty safe to say I think we all spend enough time around each other as it is. But, look, this wasn’t a president who was elected to spend his time with reporters and celebrities, this was a president who campaigned on speaking directly to Americans, and that’s exactly what he’s going to spend his time doing.
I think it’s kind of naive of us to think that we can all walk into a room for a couple of hours and pretend that some of that tension isn’t there. You know, one of the things we say in the south: If a Girl Scout egged your house, would you buy cookies from her? I think that this is a pretty similar scenario. There’s no reason for him to go in and sit and pretend like this is going to be just another Saturday night.
I think he’s very focused on protecting our borders, national security, growing our economy, and instead of going and spending a night doing that, I think he’ll spend the night focused on what he can do to help better America.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Pretty straight answer. I think a lot would argue the eggs have gone both ways on that. But we’re going to have to leave it there today.
It may have been a “straight” answer, but it was also a pretty strange one, given the facts. The last president to skip the dinner was Ronald Reagan, who was recovering from an assassination attempt. Trump will be the first president to miss the dinner since it evolved into the major media event it has become. And Sanders’ claim that Trump was not “elected to spend his time with reporters and celebrities,” is belied by the fact that Trump has plenty of time to spend with the wealthy “regular Americans” at his private club.
After shutting down Friday’s on-camera briefing and banning unfriendly press, the Trump White House sent only one administration official out to do the Sunday shows, and that was Sanders, who made just the one appearance.
But the media is not playing along, as at least one Sunday show, NBC’s Meet the Press, declined the meager offer of a deputy press secretary in lieu of more senior officials.
The White House’s recent moves, and the responses from much of the corporate media, bespeak a president who started a war with the press, and is now losing badly.