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CNN will be attending this year’s White House Correspondents’ Dinner, but the network’s attendees will be swapping in journalism students for the usual celebrity guests.
“We feel there is no better way to underscore our commitment to the health and longevity of a free press than to celebrate its future,” read a statement posted Tuesday to the CNN Communications Twitter account.
The network’s confirmation to attend the April 29 event comes amid controversy over the dinner due to tenuous times for the press under a President Donald Trump. BuzzFeed News reported CNN might skip the annual soiree and as of Friday, CNN’s vp communications, Matt Dornic, said the network hadn’t yet made up its mind.
“CNN has been a proud supporter of the White House Correspondents’ Dinner for decades,” the statement continued. “We stand with the WHCA 100 percent, and look forward to being a part of an evening dedicated to funding scholarships and honoring great journalism.”
Vanity Fair and The New Yorker announced plans to boycott the annual Washington, D.C., “Nerd Prom” back in January, leading to speculation that CNN, which has been targeted as “fake news” by Trump, might follow suit. Bloomberg, who usually co-hosts the annual party with Vanity Fair, also recently canceled their annual celebration.
The evening traditionally combines media with celebrity guests and is widely regarded as the biggest social event of the year for Washington, D.C. This year, however, many of the usual attendees are hesitant.
Sources previously told The Hollywood Reporter the casts of House of Cards, Veep and Scandal will likely not be in attendance, even though they were present at the event during President Barack Obama’s years in the White House.
The same evening as the dinner, TBS’ Samantha Bee is planning her own event: a “Not the White House Correspondents’ Dinner” in the nation’s capital, raising funds to support the Committee to Protect Journalists.
The White House Correspondents’ Association also has yet to name a host for the evening. Last year, comedian Larry Wilmore emceed Obama’s final event.
Trump himself announced that he, too, would be skipping the dinner earlier this week.
When speaking to Fox & Friends earlier on Tuesday, Trump said he felt it would be “inappropriate” to attend the dinner given all the talk of “fake news” and his constantly being a target in the press.
“I just thought in light of the fact of fake news and all of the other stuff we’re talking about now, it would be inappropriate,” he said. “I have great respect for the press, I have great respect for reporters and the whole profession. With all of that being said, I just thought it would be better if I didn’t do the dinner. That doesn’t mean I’m not going to do it next year.”
He will be the first sitting president to skip the dinner since Ronald Reagan in 1981 — the former president missed the dinner while recovering from an assassination attempt, but still delivered remarks over the phone.
But with or without Trump, the show will go on.
The WHCA had confirmed the event will take place earlier this month, with president Jeff Mason saying 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.”
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