Olivier Knox, president of the White House Correspondents’ Association, decried President Donald Trump’s criticism of the establishment media in his remarks at the annual event and recalled an episode in which his worried son asked if the president will imprison him.
Knox said Saturday evening of President Trump.:
I don’t want to dwell on the president. This is not his dinner. It’s ours, and it should stay ours. But I do want to say this. In nearly 23 years as a reporter, I’ve been physically assaulted by Republicans and Democrats, spat on, shoved, had crap thrown at me. I’ve been told by senior administration officials of both major parties that I will never work in Washington again.
And yet, I still separate my career into the period before February 2017 and what came after. That’s because February 2017 is when the President of the United States called us the ‘enemies of the people.’ A few days later I was driving my then-11-year-old son somewhere, probably soccer practice, when he burst into tears and asked me, ‘Is Donald Trump going to put you in prison?’ At the end of a family trip to Mexico he mused if the president tried to keep me out of the country, at ‘least Uncle Josh is a good lawyer and will get you home.’
He then said the terms “fake news” and “enemy of the people” are not “pet names, punch lines, or presidential,” before adding, “We should reject politically expedient assaults on men and women whose hard work helps make it possible to hold the power to account.”
The remarks came at the organization’s annual Washington dinner on Saturday night. President Trump and members of his staff, including Press Secretary Sarah Sanders, skipped the dinner to attend a Greenbay, Wisconsin rally. Sanders was the target of several attacks during last year’s speech by comedian Michelle Wolf.
Instead of a comic, historian and author Ron Chernow was the main speaker at the dinner.
Knox also read aloud a letter from Austin Tice’s family urging dinner guests to advocate for his release. Tice is a freelance journalist who was kidnapped while reporting in Syria in 2012.
The AP contributed to this report.