Capping a week of extraordinary hostility toward the news media, President Trump tweeted on Saturday that he would not attend this year’s charity dinner of the White House Correspondents’ Association, scheduled for April 29, a Washington tradition symbolizing comity between the president and the press.
Whether Mr. Trump would appear at the dinner had been an open question: The president has blasted the news media as the “opposition party” and on Friday delivered his most slashing broadside yet, telling the Conservative Political Action Conference that major news outlets were “the enemy of the people.” Later, his press secretary barred journalists from CNN, The New York Times and other organizations from a briefing at the White House.
The level of tension seemed incongruous with a black-tie event that is typically a jocular, if occasionally sharp-edged evening. The dinner, which has attracted A-list celebrities in recent years, features a presidential roast of reporters and a comic routine by a notable entertainer. Presidents are expected to be self-deprecating, which Mr. Trump is decidedly not.
The event may also evoke dark memories for Mr. Trump, who was brutally mocked at the 2011 dinner by President Barack Obama and the late-night host Seth Meyers, both of whom skewered the real estate developer for his seemingly far-fetched political aspirations and reality-show gaudiness. Cameras captured Mr. Trump in the audience, stone-faced, and the evening has since been cited as a prime motivator behind his presidential run.
Still, a White House official said this month that Mr. Trump planned to continue the tradition of the dinner, which raises money for scholarships.
The Correspondents’ Association, in a measured statement on Saturday, said that it “takes note” of the president’s decision. Jeff Mason, its president, wrote that the dinner “has been and will continue to be a celebration of the First Amendment and the important role played by an independent news media in a healthy republic.”
Mr. Mason said on CNN that one of the last times a president did not attend the dinner was in 1981, as it was shortly after the March 30 attempted assassination of Ronald Reagan. Mr. Reagan telephoned from his hospital room.
This year’s dinner was already shaping up as an outlier. Vanity Fair decided not to hold its traditional after-party, considered the high-water event of the Washington social calendar. Its co-sponsor, Bloomberg L.P., bowed out on Friday, citing a lack of interest. The New Yorker also canceled an event.
Minutes after Mr. Trump tweeted his intention to stay home, suggestions were popping up on social media on who might attend in his stead.
“Let @AlecBaldwin play @POTUS at the dinner,” tweeted April D. Ryan, a White House correspondent for American Urban Radio Networks, referring to the actor who appears on “Saturday Night Live” impersonating Mr. Trump. “Now that could work.”
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