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Trump won’t dine with 'enemy,' will skip White House press corps dinner

Trump calls journalists 'enemy of the people,' criticises outlets, individual reporters whose coverage he does not like
Image of Donald Trump appears on screen as then US president Barack Obama tells a joke during the 2012 White House Correspondents' Association dinner in Washington, DC (AFP/file photo)

US President Donald Trump announced on Saturday that he would not attend the annual White House Correspondents' Association dinner, a high-profile event that draws celebrities, politicians and journalists.

"I will not be attending the White House Correspondents' Association Dinner this year. Please wish everyone well and have a great evening!" Trump wrote on Twitter.

On the campaign trail and in the White House, Trump has had a strained relationship with the media, calling journalists "the enemy of the people" and frequently criticising outlets and individual reporters whose coverage he does not like.

The reporters' group said it would go ahead with its 29 April dinner in spite of Trump's absence. The Washington event typically draws movie stars, politicians and business leaders to hear a humorous speech by the sitting president.

The tradition, which dates back to 1921, sees a handful of journalism students receive scholarships each year.

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," said Jeff Mason, a Reuters White House correspondent who heads the association this year.

Ronald Reagan was the last president to sit out the event, after he was shot in 1981.

Some news outlets such as Bloomberg News and the New Yorker have said they will not host the lavish after-parties that have been a fixture of past events.

On Friday, the White House excluded several major US news organizations, including some it has criticized, from an off-camera briefing held by the White House press secretary.

Reporters for CNN, The New York Times, Politico, The Los Angeles Times and BuzzFeed were not allowed into the session in the office of press secretary Sean Spicer, a decision that drew strong protests.

Smaller outlets that have provided favorable coverage of the Trump administration, such as Breitbart and the One America News Network, received a green light to attend the briefing.

The White House Correspondents' Association said it was "protesting strongly" against the decision to deny coverage to the outlets and would bring it up with the administration.

The New York Times described the White House decision as "an unmistakable insult to democratic ideals," while a CNN statement called it "an unacceptable development".

In an editorial, the Los Angeles Times warned that the incident had "ratcheted up the White House's war on the free press" to a new level.

Trump built his campaign on criticizing the mainstream US media as biased, and has intensified his rhetoric since taking office, routinely accusing the outlets of overstating his setbacks and downplaying his accomplishments.

A week ago, at his first solo news conference, the 70-year-old launched into a long diatribe against dozens of journalists that were present, blaming their "dishonesty" for his month-old administration's troubles.

The event occasionally makes news: In 2011, President Barack Obama delivered a scathing evisceration of Trump, joking that the mogul, who sat stone-faced in the audience, would move on from questioning Obama's citizenship to figuring out "did we fake the moon landing".

Critics say the event encourages journalists to cozy up to politicians they should cover aggressively.

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