CNN disinvites itself from annual White House holiday party for the press

The annual mingle between journalists and the president could be a tense affair this year.

The annual White House holiday party for the news media is usually a placid affair, with cookies, punch and a photo opportunity. The president and first lady pose for souvenir photos amid festive decorations with journalists who normally would be hurling tough questions at the commander in chief. 

This year, things will be a little different. And a little awkward. 

President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump will host the party as usual on Friday, but it won't be the usual party. 

CNN, which the president criticized repeatedly and sharply on Monday, said Tuesday it won't attend. "In light of the President's continued attacks on freedom of the press and CNN, we do not feel it is appropriate to celebrate with him as his invited guests," a spokesperson said. Instead, the network will cover the event as a news story and report on it "if news warrants." 

In response to CNN's decision, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders offered a taunting tweet: "Christmas comes early! Finally, good news from @CNN." 

Tensions between the president and the people who cover him are at a low point, or at least are at the same low point they've always been at since Trump began calling the news media "fake" and the "enemy of the American people." That dynamic seems to have made the event like a dinner among distant relatives who try to keep up a brave face despite despising each other. 

Trump ducked out of his last official social engagement with the news media, the annual White House Correspondents' Association dinner in April. He kissed off the dinner in a tweet in February, without explaining why he wanted no part of it: "I will not be attending the White House Correspondents' Association Dinner this year," he wrote. "Please wish everyone well and have a great evening!" 

The first couple will attend the holiday press party, Melania Trump's spokeswoman, Stephanie Grisham, confirmed on Tuesday. "The President and First Lady look forward to opening their home to members of the media in the spirit of the Christmas season," she said in an email. 

But that's all she confirmed. Grisham declined to answer any further questions — such as, will the president address his guests at the party? Will he and Mrs. Trump mingle with the assembled journalists? Will they stick around for photos? 

The latter is a big ask, and seems on the face of it unlikely. In years past, the president and first lady have stood for hours as a long line of reporters and their guests gathered for photos with them. The White House gives the photos to guests for framing or for posting on social media. 

Which leads to another question: If Trump does stand for pictures, will reporters take one with him? 

Yes, said Jonathan Karl, White House correspondent for ABC News. Karl said he intends to attend the party "unless news interferes." He notes that this year's party will be held at 2 p.m., close to deadline for network correspondents. Previous parties were held during evening hours. 

As for the photo, Karl said, "I have done photos with other presidents and don't have an issue doing one again." 

Among those not invited this year is April Ryan, the White House correspondent for American Urban Radio Networks and a CNN contributor. 

Ryan doesn't know why she didn't get a golden ticket this year, but she suspects it may be payback for her various run-ins with Trump and his press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, during the past year. Over the Thanksgiving weekend, for example, Ryan questioned Sanders' claim to having baked a magazine-perfect chocolate pecan pie. Ryan tweeted: "Show it to us on a table," which sparked "#piegate," a debate about presidential credibility. 

In an interview, Ryan said, "I've given up trying to figure out why" she wasn't invited to this year's soiree. "He has the right to invite whoever he wants. He chose not to invite me. I'm good." 

Well, not that good. 

"I don't think I was overlooked," she continued. "I think they don't like me. For whatever reason, they have disdain for me." 

Ryan noted that this is first time in 20 years of covering the White House that she hasn't been welcome at the annual party. She's attended parties hosted by presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama (she said "no" one time during the Bush years because she was pregnant). And that includes years in which she's tangled with other press secretaries, including Obama's first, Robert Gibbs. 

Bloomberg correspondent Margaret Talev, president of the White House Correspondents' Association, said the journalists' organization has no control over how the party is organized or who's invited. 

"Reporters who are invited typically attend when their schedules permit, in recognition of the institution and the honor conveyed on them as representatives of the public," Talev said. "The Trump administration has decided to continue this tradition this year." 

Talev said she'll be at this year's party, just as she was when invited by the Obama White House.

Reader Comments ...

Next Up in Politics

Lewandowski says he will testify this week in House Russia probe
Lewandowski says he will testify this week in House Russia probe

Corey Lewandowski, President Trump's former campaign manager, said in an interview broadcast Sunday that he will give testimony this week to a House committee probing Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.  Lewandowski said on WABC-AM radio in New York that he expects to appear before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence...
A look inside the tense, vulgar meeting on immigration
A look inside the tense, vulgar meeting on immigration

When President Donald Trump spoke by phone with Sen. Richard Durbin around 10:15 a.m. last Thursday, he expressed pleasure with Durbin's outline of a bipartisan immigration pact and praised the high-ranking Illinois Democrat's efforts, according to White House officials and congressional aides.  The president then asked if Sen. Lindsey Graham...
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy relishes role as Trump’s fixer, friend and candy man
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy relishes role as Trump’s fixer, friend and candy man

President Donald Trump and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., were alone in the presidential suite on Air Force One, flying east toward Washington in early October, when the president reached for a handful of Starbursts, the fruit-flavored, box-shaped chewy candies.  But instead of unwrapping all of the treats, the president was careful...
‘What do we want? Apology!’ Hundreds of Haiti supporters protest near Mar-a-Lago
‘What do we want? Apology!’ Hundreds of Haiti supporters protest near Mar-a-Lago

  About 500 Haitian-Americans and their supporters used the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday to protest derogatory comments President Donald Trump reportedly made about immigrants from majority-black countries.  "What do we want? Apology!" the protesters chanted.  Many wore shirts proclaiming "I love Haiti," while...
Who was the only candidate for governor at Everglades Coalition conference?
Who was the only candidate for governor at Everglades Coalition conference?

Democratic governor candidate Chris King at a Palm Beach County Democratic meeting last year. Chris King, the Winter Park businessman seeking the 2018 Democratic nomination for Florida governor, scored some points with Everglades advocates by being the only gubernatorial hopeful to attend the recent Everglades Coalition Conference in Stuart...
More Stories