Trump bars administration officials from attending White House correspondents dinner

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump on Tuesday barred White House staff and members of his administration from attending this year’s White House Correspondents’ Association dinner on Saturday, officials said.

Trump had already said he would not attend the annual dinner, instead scheduling a political rally in Wisconsin, but he had not decided whether anyone from his staff could attend.

The decision that no one from his team could participate was announced to White House staff and other representatives from the administration by White House Cabinet Secretary Bill McGinley at their morning meeting, officials said.

It set off a scramble as many staffers had accepted invitations thinking Trump would allow them to go.

“The president and members of his administration will not attend the White House Correspondents’ Dinner this year. Instead, Saturday evening, President Trump will travel to Green Bay, Wisconsin, where he will hold a campaign rally,” said a White House official.

Trump, who has denounced the mainstream news media as “fake news” and routinely directs his supporters to watch the Fox News Channel, has not attended the dinner since he became president in January 2017.

The White House Correspondents’ Association dinner has been attended by presidents most years since the organization was founded in 1914. The group raises money for scholarships and honors the U.S. Constitution’s “freedom of the press” First Amendment.

In recent decades, the group has had a comedian as entertainment, but comedian Michelle Wolf’s lampooning of White House press secretary Sarah Sanders, who was seated nearby during the performance, drew so much criticism last year that the association this year is bringing in historian Ron Chernow for remarks.

“We’re looking forward to an enjoyable evening of celebrating the First Amendment and great journalists past, present, and future,” said Olivier Knox, president of the White House Correspondents’ Association.

(Reporting by Steve Holland; Editing by Peter Cooney)