By boycotting the White House Correspondents' dinner, Donald Trump actually gave journalists an opportunity to stop with keeping up appearances. We were never supposed to be friends and that’s the beginning of the healthiest relationship we ever had.
The juxtaposition of a White House Correspondent can be anywhere from critical to supportive of the President of the United States. During the Obama era, they well defined those lines. It was an epoch of order, presidential demeanor, and substance, a time where words mattered and they were carefully curated to carry out the presidential message. No one really cared too much to show up religiously at every press briefing but at least, those were happening and unlike Trump, President Obama was coming to the podium to answer questions. America did not face going over 40 days without a White House press briefing like it does today. Scripted or not, Obama was showing up. The press was civil, not overly combative but if you ask the Republicans and conservative journalists who felt for years sidelined by the democratic Press Secretary, they will tell you that the cable mainstream networks gave Obama a free pass.
With Trump, everything went up in flames, although from what I have seen from the front row of the White House reporting, he was hoping, initially, that he would have us where he wanted us. In Bedminster, the first time he took us with him to report on the creation of his first cabinet, he sent freshly grilled burgers, water, and even hot chocolate to our press section shouting from the white steps of his luxurious golf club: “I can’t believe I am taking care of the press!”.
The love affair between us and Trump did not happen. We did not ask him for a photo shoot through the American midwest, we did not ask him to ride along with us shirtless, on a white horse. Unlike Kim Jong-un, we did not write him a letter stating how great he was.
Why would we? That’s not the role of the press.
Trump expected the press corps to applaud and write positive press releases for the White House page 6. TMZ White House tonight. A Sunday church mass with a man of a Jesus complex, the one called Kanye. Ye. Or perhaps, Trump.
The politics of semantics and MAGA identities. One produces overpriced Jesus merchandise, the other signs Bibles.
Someone, please call 911.
Instead, we turned the cameras on to amplify the erratic message from the Oval office of Jesus Ye. The Maga hat genius who “made that bitch famous” raged in the microphone of the White House press pool. After that, Kim coming to the Oval was a nothing burger. With a paper bag full of fries.
Now, Trump’s not only not coming to dinner, but he also ordered everyone in his administration to boycott the White House Correspondents celebrating the First Amendment. That is revenge he can finally showcase in plain sight after Mueller concluded its investigation. “No collusion, no obstructions” is a raging bull mantra. Voulez-Vous un impeachment Mr. Trump?
“We’re looking forward to an enjoyable evening of celebrating the First Amendment and great journalists past, present, and future."
The show must go on, and this show should be going from now on without the President, without cozying up to politicians. White House Correspondents Association should invite readers, citizens, press freedom activists and reporters of whom many for years could not get a ticket to attend the dinner since suddenly some new folks like Michael Avenatti became relevant. Suddenly, they had a star quality that gave them a fast ticket to the media power dinner in Washington Circle. In the end, Avenatti lasted no longer than a breaking news story. Take a note Americans, there’s a big difference between truth and access.
I did not go to the dinner last year, although I contemplated getting a table or a few $300 tickets. I went to many galas with a $3500 price-tag for a plate so why the hell not go to this one? Because sipping cocktails with the power while I am supposed to write critically of them is not something I can get used to. It’s one of DC traditions I don't uphold.
Journalism matters. Truth matters. Integrity matters. And whatever Rudy Giuliani may tell you, morality matters. You need not to raise yourself up to the level of criminal actions to know the difference between right and wrong.
The celebration of journalism without the Trump administration will mark a clean slate, a breakup with false pretenses. No one needs the seat at that table. Just ask Gen Z. They do not want a seat at any table.
Trump will have a lot to regret, as it won’t be Twitter or Jack of all trades who will write the first draft of history. It will be us, independent journalists who stand on the first line of the White House reporting.
In time, everything will come in its place. Trump is no exception to that. After a while, the fight against the press will become meaningless as journalists will give up on forcing a smile in the interactions with the members of the president's administration. Any administration. That, in itself, is a precious gift.
Maybe Jacks of Twitter, perhaps Marks of Facebook will all fall in line and go to the Oval Office for a group picture with the president behind the closed doors, but independent journalists do not need to make friends with the government.
We were never supposed to be friends with politicians we write critically about, and the Trump administration boycotting the celebration of the First Amendment will mark the beginning of the healthiest relationship we ever had.
It’s our press party and we can say and raise a glass to whatever we want to. The enemy of the people are not the journalists but those who are calling for a collective boycott of the First Amendment. The choice is simple. You can either dine alone or subscribe to the political cult. Tread carefully, America.
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