The White House Correspondents’ Dinner, held without the president in attendance, was filled with journalists and comedians taking shots at Donald Trump as you would expect.
But even in the middle of the non-stop attacks, the WHCA president, Jeff Mason, had to admit that the Trump White House was pretty damn accessible when it came to letting the media in on the action. While he didn’t specifically call out Trump’s predecessor for his own legendary war on transparency – of course, why would he? – Mason let his guard down and admitted that not EVERYTHING about President Trump was as evil as the mainstream media made it seem.
“With all of the tension in the relationship, that aspect is often overlooked,” Mason said, referring to the White House’s press availability. “We have had several press conferences, repeated opportunities to see and report on the president’s meetings, and – with at least one notable and lamentable exception – good access to briefings with press staff and senior administration officials.”
Of course, too much of that kind of talk, and Mason would be in danger of losing his audience. The Washington press establishment came to the ceremony to see Trump – more than a hundred miles away in Harrisburg, PA – get what was coming to him. They came for their “nerd prom,” dammit, and they would have revolted if Mason hadn’t immediately turned to the grave, awful, scary, horrible threat that President Trump represents to Ye Olde Media.
“Nevertheless, we cannot ignore the rhetoric that has been employed by the president about who we are and what we do,” Mason said, as a palpable sigh of relief made its way through the black-tie crowd. “Freedom of the press is a building block of our democracy. Undermining that by seeking to delegitimize journalists is dangerous to a healthy Republic.”
Is that so…
Mason doesn’t, perhaps, realize that this kind of rhetoric is merely the reverse of what Trump says about the media. The story goes: Any time the media says something bad about him, he calls it fake news. We all know this isn’t true – Trump would never have a free moment if he dedicated all of his time to that pursuit – but that’s the story. And Mason is basically saying, “If Trump ever criticizes any journalist or any story, he’s hurting the First Amendment.” Every story in every newspaper is the unassailable truth, in other words.
“The WHCA is proud to stand up for all of our members,” Mason continued. “An attack on any of us is an attack on all of us. At previous dinners, we have rightly talked about the threats to press freedoms abroad. Tonight we must recognize that there are threats to press freedoms here in the United States.”
How absurd. Press freedom is under no such threat, as Mason himself acknowledged at the beginning of his speech. The political media in this country is not only free and unencumbered, they are raking in money hand over fist with their coverage of this highly-unusual presidency.
Maybe they like the feeling of self-pity. That’s fine.
But we can’t blame Trump for getting as far away from the party as possible.