NEW YORK: Speaking at the correspondent's dinner, from which Donald Trump was missing, the White House Correspondents' Association hit back at the United States President for his steady and consistent attack on the media and sent him a clear message- ‘we are not fake news’.
Trump became the first US President in decades to skip out on the annual event between the White House and the reporters who cover the presidency.
"We cannot ignore the rhetoric that has been employed by the president about who we are and what we do. We are not fake news. We are not failing news organisations. And we are not the enemy of the American people." association president Jeff Mason told a ballroom of journalists who gave a standing ovation at his last sentence.
Present at the event, Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward of Watergate fame asserted that good journalism is more crucial to a free society than ever in a climate of increasing hostility between the White House and the press.
The speeches from the venerated journalists came on the occasion of the first White House correspondents' dinner since 1981 in which the sitting president did not attend.
Bernstein stated that Nixon had targeted the media in an attempt to divert attention from his own misdemeanors.
"Richard Nixon tried to make the conduct of the press more the issue in Watergate instead of the conduct of the President and his men. We tried to avoid the noise and let the reporting speak," he said.
Woodward directed his message directly to the absent Trump and said, “Mr. President, the media is not fake news. Let's take that off the table as we proceed. Whatever the climate, whether the media is revered or reviled, we should and must persist, and I believe we will. Any relaxation by the press will be extremely costly to democracy."
Trump became the first U.S. President to skip the event, as he addressed a crowd in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania and mocked the White House Correspondents' Dinner saying, "there's another big gathering taking place tonight in Washington D.C. Did you hear about it? A large group of Hollywood actors and Washington media are consoling each other in a hotel ballroom in our nation's capital right now."
Former U.S. president Barack Obama was a popular choice at previous dinners as he managed to have a healthy relation with the press, graciously accepting their barbs and quips and giving it back in equal measure with his trademark witty manner.
However, Trump broke from tradition and opted to hold a rally instead to mark the completion of his his first 100 days.
"I could not be possibly more thrilled than to be a thousand miles away from [the] Washington swamp, spending my evening with you - a much much larger crowd and better people." Trump added.