White House Correspondents Dinner sees press hit back at Trump: 'We are not fake news'

The press defended themselves against the Trump's administration repeated attacks on them, in the face of his near-unprecedented absence from the event

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The Independent Culture

The White House Correspondents Dinner is usually an event of good will: the president is roasted, the president roasts back.

However, Donald Trump's near-unprecedented absence from this year's gathering threw an uncomfortable air over the whole evening; how does one celebrate the relationship between press and president when it has been nothing but hostile in the light of Trump's ascendancy?

An opportunity, then, for the press to take a stand against the administration who has done its best to destroy them, as White House Correspondents Association head Jeff Mason told attendees: "We cannot ignore the rhetoric that has been employed by the president about who we are and what we do. We are not fake news. We are not failing news organisations. And we are not the enemy of the American people."

Trump's absence marked the first president-less Correspondents Dinner since Reagan skipped the event in 1981, missing the gathering after his infamous assassination attempt, though he still gave his regards via telephone.

It appears Trump's only reason not to attend this year is, as host Hasan Minhaj joked, the fact he "can't take a joke"; Minhaj still liberally lambasted Trump, but elsewhere the evening's tone shifted to a wider celebration of journalism itself. 

"We are here to celebrate the press, not the presidency," Mason continued. In reference to speculation Trump's absence would impact interest in the gathering, he added, “I am happy to report for anyone who’s interested that this dinner is sold out.”

Host Hasan Minhaj roasts Trump at the White House Correspondents' Dinner

Similar sentiments were expressed by journalist Bob Woodward, known for breaking the Watergate scandal during Nixon's presidency, who stated: "The press, especially the so-called mainstream media, comes under regular attack. Mr. President, the media is not fake news. Let’s take that off the table as we proceed."

The event saw host Hasan Minhaj, of The Daily Show, tear into Donald Trump and his administration, despite apparently being asked not to. 

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