Washington (AFP) – President Donald Trump swaps one Washington for another Saturday, pointedly opting to connect with American “deplorables” in a Michigan town rather than exchange barbs at the White House correspondents dinner.
The US leader will attend a campaign-style rally in Washington Township, north of Detroit, to tout what his team hails as an economic revival on the same evening that the White House press corps hosts its annual confab.
Trump, who has frequently attacked the media and its coverage of him since his days as a presidential candidate, is snubbing the press dinner for a second consecutive year since taking office.
“Why would I want to be stuck in a room with a bunch of fake news liberals who hate me?” Trump said in a fundraising email this week authorized by the Republican National Committee.
“While the fake news media are toasting to themselves in the swamp, the President will be holding a campaign rally in the great state of Michigan with his fellow deplorables,” another campaign email announced.
The rally, which begins at 7:00 pm (1100 GMT) at a sports complex, will be Trump’s fifth in the Detroit area since he began his improbable presidential run in 2015.
“Look forward to being in the Great State of Michigan tonight. Major business expansion and jobs pouring into your State. Auto companies expanding at record pace. Big crowd tonight, will be live on T.V.,” Trump wrote on Twitter Saturday.
Since coming to office, Trump has repeatedly touted day-to-day stock market increases, jobs data and other positive economic indicators as evidence his administration is succeeding.
– ‘Dishonest media’ –
American reporters are frequent targets of Trump’s ire. He routinely tweets about the “fake news” or the “dishonest media,” particularly after he sees news reports that he believes are unfavorable to him and his administration.
“Trump’s absence is part of a bigger pattern,” historian Julian Zelizer wrote on The Atlantic’s website about the president’s plan to skip the dinner.
“Not only has the president been extremely hostile to the press, questioning their legitimacy and vilifying them as enemies of the state, but he has cut off access to almost everyone outside the Fox News-Breitbart orbit,” Zelizer wrote, referring to outlets that cover Trump favorably.
“Most notable of all has been his decision to hold just one solo press conference since taking office.”
Trump’s weekend rally follows days of political high drama, most notably North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s summit with the South’s President Moon Jae-in, as well as French President Emmanuel Macron’s three-day state visit to Washington and the US Senate’s confirmation of Mike Pompeo as secretary of state.
The dinner’s entertainment host, comedian Michelle Wolf, will no doubt address the latest political developments, and perhaps the scandals that have touched Trump’s environmental chief Scott Pruitt and White House physician Ronny Jackson, who quit as Trump’s nominee to be the next veterans affairs secretary.
But Wolf will be roasting an empty chair, as Trump will break presidential tradition by staying away.
Trump has attended the dinner before, but as a guest. The reality TV fixture was in the audience in 2011 when Barack Obama famously mocked him for renewing the “birther” conspiracy about the nation’s first black president.
“No one is prouder to put this birth certificate matter to rest than The Donald,” Obama quipped, as Trump scowled in his seat.
“And that’s because he can finally get back to focusing on the issues that matter, like, did we fake the moon landing?”