CNN is considering sitting out of the White House Correspondents' Dinner, according to two people familiar with the matter, as the annual star-studded affair takes on renewed scrutiny from media outlets irked by the White House’s demonization of the press.
CNN is still actively discussing internally whether it will ultimately send staffers to the event, which is scheduled for April 29, according to one of these people.
"We haven’t made a decision on it yet," a CNN spokesperson said.
In recent years, the dinner traditionally involves presidents trying to rib the press after an A-list comedian — like Larry Wilmore, Seth Meyers, Wanda Sykes, or Stephen Colbert — takes his or her own shots at bigwigs in the room.
The chummy dinner has long been criticized as a bizarre spectacle of media and government coziness. Given President Trump’s aggressive, ongoing battle with the media, some in the press are wondering whether glad-handing with the administration this year is especially inappropriate. Sources at various newsrooms say that Trump’s deleted (then reposted) tweet calling the press the “enemy of the American people” marked a new escalation. At the annual CPAC event Thursday, top White House adviser Steve Bannon repeatedly called the media the "opposition party." CNN, in particular, has perhaps been the most frequent target of Trump’s “fake news” jab.
This year was already shaping up to be different (and more awkward) kind of dinner. The New York Times reported that The New Yorker cancelled its usual kickoff party and Vanity Fair, which is also owned by Condé Nast, pulled out of co-sponsoring an after party. (BuzzFeed News doesn’t attend the dinner and holds an alternative event.)
Earlier this month, the White House Correspondents’ Association released a statement confirming that the event would still go on. CNN sources said that the company will either way support the WHCA and won’t do anything to hurt the body’s scholarship program, which the dinner supports. High-level employees at the company have circulated ideas of how to support the event without actually attending, like buying tickets but sending them back, according to a CNN source.
Plus, some in the media world are wondering whether Trump will even end up attending the event. The White House did not immediately return a request for comment.
Steven Perlberg is a media and politics reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York. His PGP fingerprint is 0ACB FA3B AC49 D43C 79C4 8DE5 3C06 7521 F4EC 3AA5
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