WASHINGTON: Celebrating the first 100 days of his administration, US President Donald Trump attacked the media for allegedly misleading Americans as he skipped the annual White House Correspondents' Dinner in the capital.
"I could not possibly be more thrilled than to be more than 100 miles away from Washington's swamp, spending my evening with all of you with a much, much larger crowd and much, much better people. The media deserves a very big, fat, failing grade," Trump said amidst a cheering crowd at Harrisburg in Pennsylvania, a state which played a critical role in his electoral victory last November.
He said a large group of Hollywood actors and Washington media are consoling each other in a hotel ballroom in the nation's capital right now, referring to the annual dinner at a luxurious hotel which was sold out to more than 2600 crowd, comprising who’s who of nation’s political players, and top journalists along with celebrities and diplomats.
"They are gathered together for the White House Correspondents' dinner – without the President,' Trump told his supporters.
This is for the first time in decades that a serving US President decided against attending the annual event of journalists who cover him round the clock.
None of the White House staff were present on the occasion in support of the President's decision.
The last president to miss the White House Correspondents' Dinner was Ronald Reagan back in 1981, and that was because he was recovering from an assassination attempt.
In his address, Trump said his rally to celebrate the completion of his first 100 days in office drew a much larger crowd and better people too.
"They would love to be with us right here tonight. They’re trapped at the dinner, which will be very, very boring," Trump said, but indicated that he would be present at the Correspondents' Dinner next year. Next year's dinner might be "more exciting", he said. "But we have a good chance showing up here again next year."
In his speech, Trump slammed newspapers like The New York Times and The Washington Post. More than 100 miles away from Harrisburg, journalists led by White House Correspondents' Association president Jeff Mason slammed the US President for attacking the media.
"We cannot ignore the rhetoric that has been employed by the president about who we are and what we do,” Mason said.
"Freedom of the press is a building block of our democracy. Undermining that by seeking to delegitimize journalists is dangerous to a healthy republic,” he said to a standing ovation.
Mason’s impressive speech was quickly followed by Indian American stand-up comedian Hasan Minhaj.
"The leader of our country is not here, and that's because he lives in Moscow," Minhaj said amidst laughter from the audience.
"It's a very long flight, it's a Saturday. As for the other guy, I think he's in Pennsylvania because he can't take a joke," said the Indian-American, whose parents are from Aligarh in Uttar Pradesh.