I was going to let the White House Correspondents’ Dinner pass without mention, since it was already so diminished as to seem hardly worth noting (they couldn’t even get a Kardashian to show up). But there has been a lot of post-dinner commentary on the self-serving hypocrisy of it all, so I thought I should throw my two cents in.
The reason the dinner was so diminished this year (they couldn’t even get Jon Stewart’s replacement to host) was that President Trump gave it a pass. And who could blame him? When a group of people constantly attack you, your family and your co-workers, would you want to spend your Saturday night having dinner with them and listening to a “Daily Show” second-stringer call you an orange-skinned Nazi racist over the salmon and green beans?
Trump not only skipped the dinner, he stole the spotlight from it by hosting a far larger rally in Pennsylvania, in front of a friendly blue collar crowd that booed the very mention of elitist Washington reporters and Hollywood stars (one media outlet actually “fact-checked” Trump’s claim that there were Hollywood stars there, apparently not realizing that the sad lack of them was more embarrassing for the media than for Trump.) As at least one pundit noted, the split-screen TV image of the blue collar voters cheering Trump and booing the media alongside the tuxedoed Beltway insiders mocking Trump, swilling champagne and praising their own unimpeachable integrity, perfectly summed up why he won the election.
To me, the most striking thing about the WHCD was the way it illustrated what’s wrong with the media, the Democratic Party and the “progressive” movement in general: they just can’t break out of their bubble and develop any self-awareness about why average Americans hold them in such low regard. They are so invested in believing their own propaganda that they can spend the entire evening alternately mocking Trump for calling the press biased and viciously attacking Trump in ways they would never have dreamed of doing to any liberal.
They spent eight years giving Obama shoe shines with their tongues while he really did assault free speech and freedom of the press; for instance, turning his IRS loose on Tea Party groups to block their participation in elections, or targeting journalists like Fox News’ James Rosen and the AP for secret surveillance on the flimsiest of pretexts. Obama dodged press conferences and his Secretary of State and would-be successor Hillary Clinton famously went for months without speaking to reporters, even corralling them behind a rope line. She was also the only major party presidential candidate who actually ran on a promise to rewrite the First Amendment to overturn a Supreme Court decision affirming that Americans have the right to freely band together, pool their money and run ads expressing their political opinions. When Hillary railed against the Citizens United decision, she never mentioned that it was a failed attempt to censor a film critical of her from being shown too close to an election. Yet, I’ll bet nearly 100% of the people in that banquet room voted for her. I say “nearly” because the waiters probably voted for Trump.
Trump, the candidate they routinely accuse of assaulting freedom of the press, has expanded both the numbers of White House briefings and the media outlets allowed in, and gave a half-dozen interviews this week alone. He just didn’t go to their little dinner, instead choosing to skip their smug insults and speak directly to the people. Let’s be honest: those media people don’t really believe that Trump is criminalizing free speech. If they really thought they were living under a dictatorship, they’d be too scared to attack him on national TV 24/7. They’re just crushed to discover that people who disagree with them now think they have a right to free speech, too.
The organizers of the WHCD like to claim it’s not a partisan event, it’s to raise money for journalism scholarships. It’s an excuse they mock when beauty pageants claim to be “scholarship competitions.” But this year, it really was a great tool for teaching journalism. Journalism classes should show students a video of that evening of hypocrisy, bias, rationalizations, self-pity, self-aggrandizement and making their own feelings the point of the story. Do the opposite of everything you see, and you will be on your way to becoming something we sorely need: a genuine professional journalist.
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