All aboard the crazy train! On Tuesday afternoon’s CNN Newsroom, liberal media janitor and Reliable Sources host Brian Stelter appeared alongside host Brooke Baldwin to complain about the Trump administration boycotting Saturday’s White House Correspondents’ Dinner (WHCD), which is arguably the most pompous, self-worshipping annual celebration known to man (besides Hollywood awards shows).
Because after all, there’s no profession that loves itself more than the national press!
Here’s how Baldwin put it in one of two teases for their discussion: “And it is no secret the President likes to insult the free press but now we're learning the White House is actually telling the administration officials so boycott the dinner celebrating the First Amendment.”
Earth to Brooke, the WHCD only celebrates the press as if the First Amendment only concerns them. Yes, the press have a First Amendment right to be complete goobers and treat themselves as God’s gift to mankind.
But you know what else? The First Amendment also gives people the right to say “CNN sucks,” but such criticism is taken nowadays as an incitement of violence.
Just past the 2:39 p.m. Eastern mark, Baldwin brought on Stelter and again tried to argue that the Saturday event, where journalists hobnob with celebrities, fellow liberals, and each other, was about more than them: “[L]isten, you know, say what you will about the press, this is an event that honors the First Amendment.”
Here’s part of how Stelter initially responded, touting the need for events like this so journalists and sources could become friendly with each other:
Yes. That’s what it’s about, It is an awards dinner and a fundraiser. In the past, presidents have shown up even if they were angry at the press at any given time and, importantly, it’s useful for White House aide to smooze with reporters. It’s helpful for us to get to our sources. There’s some value in these sorts of festive events, but it is, as you said, another example of a tradition at least being put on pause during the Trump age.
It was moments after this, that Stelter asserted that the White House pulling up stakes and moving on from the dinner was “another example” of “[t]his administration’s attack against the media” with “one form” being Trump “having a rally this Saturday instead of attending the dinner and I do think it matters mostly because what it means about these tensions continuing to escalate.”
Think the criticism of the dinner is just a right-wing phenomenon? Well, ask lefty journalists Tom Brokaw, Bob Garfield, Bill Press, and Margaret Sullivan what they think.
Writing about the 2014 edition, my colleague Kyle Drennen found that the Monday morning network newscasts spent over 12 minutes on the dinner, but only 47 seconds on the launch of a probe into Benghazi. Or there’s the infamous 2011 edition when the press were fawning like girls at a Jonas Brothers concert over Obama dissing then-private citizen Trump.
And as we saw after the 2017 dinner when the President had a rally in Harrisburg, PA (which cited the MRC), CNN wasn’t exactly happy with the “poisonous” speech by a President one panelist decried as a “moral midget.”
Perhaps Mark Joyella put it best in this Forbes column following the much-maligned 2018 dinner (click “expand”):
The problem is that nobody can clearly define what the White House Correspondents' Association dinner is for. Is it a black-tie celebration of the First Amendment and journalists' tireless work in Washington to hold the president and our government accountable? That's the suggestion from the WHCA itself in its oh-wow-sorry-about-Saturday-night statement, which was issued after several high-profile journalists expressed disappointment with the jokes directed at Sanders. The WHCA statement said that the dinner "was meant to offer a unifying message about our common commitment to a vigorous and free press," and that "the entertainer's monologue was not in the spirit of that mission."
Ah. Unifying message. Got it. But no, wait. Networks like CNN don't devote hours of live coverage to the dinner because it provides unity. They cover it because the hosts make jokes about people who are often sitting in the room. It's unpredictable, and the people who get roasted are powerful: the president, elected leaders and members of the media. The jokes have long been cutting — so much so that it's said Donald Trump's road to the White House began, in part, with President Obama ridiculing Trump over his support of birtherism and then laughing at Trump as a joke as a potential president, displaying a mockup of a "Trump White House" emblazoned with the Trump name, a pink neon sign, and bikini models in a hot tub.
To see the relevant transcript from April 23's CNN Newsroom with Brooke Baldwin, click “expand.”
CNN Newsroom with Brooke Baldwin
April 23, 2019
2:12 p.m. Eastern [TEASE]
[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Just In; CNN: WH Ordered Trump Officials to Boycott Reporter Dinner]
BROOKE BALDWIN: And it is no secret the President likes to insult the free press but now we're learning the White House is actually telling the administration officials so boycott the dinner celebrating the First Amendment.
2:35 p.m. Eastern [TEASE]
[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Honoring First Amendment; CNN: WH Ordered Trump Officials to Boycott Reporter Dinner]
BALDWIN: And plus a new order on President Trump on why he's telling his staff to boycott the White House Correspondents’ Dinner which celebrates the First Amendment.
2:39 p.m. Eastern
[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: New Today; CNN: WH Ordered Trump Officials to Boycott Reporter Dinner]
BALDWIN: Since becoming President of the United States, Donald Trump has avoided tradition and skipped the annual White House Correspondents’ Association dinner each spring but members of the staff would attend, at least until now. CNN has learned that the President has ordered all Trump administration officials to boycott this year’s event, which is this Saturday. Brian Stelter is our CNN chief media correspondent, host of Reliable Sources and, listen, you know, say what you will about the press, this is an event that honors the First Amendment.
BRIAN STELTER: Yes. That’s what it’s about, It is an awards dinner and a fundraiser. In the past, presidents have shown up even if they were angry at the press at any given time and, importantly, it’s useful for White House aide to smooze with reporters
STELTER: It’s helpful for us to get to our sources. There’s some value in these sorts of festive events, but it is, as you said, another example of a tradition at least being put on pause during the Trump age. Here’s what the Correspondents’ Association says. They said, basically, they don't mind either way and this event is about celebrating journalists and the First Amendment and so the show will go on. There is the statement about this weekend's dinner and dinners in the future.
[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: New Today; CNN: WH Ordered Trump Officials to Boycott Reporter Dinner; Trump Previously Announced He Will Instead Attend a Campaign Rally]
But look, it’s yet another example of what we’re seeing. This administration’s attack against the media takes many forms. One form is the President having a rally this Saturday instead of attending the dinner and I do think it matters mostly because what it means about these tensions continuing to escalate. It makes you wonder, you know, there’s been all this talk in the Mueller report about the President making orders, making orders and then being ignored. Yesterday he told Kaitlan Collins nobody disobeys my orders and then what happens today? An order not to attend the dinner this weekend. Makes you wonder if that’s all a coincidence or not.
BALDWIN: Makes you wonder.
BALDWIN: Brian Stelter —
BALDWIN: — thank you very much.