Wednesday, 16 Jan 2019

To party? The White House press night could be a ghost of the Christmas past

The holiday season may be about to get a little less cheerful for White House news outlets.

The annual Christmas holiday party, tradition at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue for decades, has apparently melted like a snowflake in May. The White House did not say the event was off, but it did not schedule it either.

White House journalists have said they do not know the fate of the latter. The party usually takes place from the beginning to the middle of December.

If the reasons for this non-event are unclear – the White House did not return requests for comment – this could have a connection with last year's party fiasco, the first under President Trump.

In 2017, Trump's continued attacks on the press, and particularly against CNN, prompted the network to announce that he would not participate in last year's edition. The White House Press Secretary, Sarah Sanders, responded to the complaint with a personal remark: "Christmas is coming early!" she tweeted-mocked in response. "Finally, good news from @CNN."

Sanders and Trump also left journalist April Ryan off their guest list. Ryan, a White House correspondent for American Urban Radio Networks and a contributor to CNN, was often bumped into Sanders and sometimes Trump during press briefings. It was the first time in 20 years to cover the White House that Ryan was not invited.

If that was not enough for everyone, the administration changed the date of the evening party in the middle of the afternoon, which made it more difficult for journalists to bring their spouses or children.

To add to the fun, President Trump and First Lady Melania Trump gave up another tradition at last year's party: taking pictures with reporters. The presidents and first ladies took these photos for years, standing for hours while journalists and their collaborators prepared for a recollection that would end up on social media or on an ego wall at home . The White House gives the photos to the guests.

The biscuit and punch festival has always been conceived as a kind of seasonal olive branch extended by the administration to the press, anticipating a truce of a few hours in the daily news battles. (Bah-humbugs' guys have long said that the party was a terribly bad look for journalists, who are not supposed to mouth with the people they cover).

The show further worsened hypocrisy and hypocrisy last year, as Trump continued to criticize the media as "false news" andenemy"American people.

Despite everything, the tradition has fallen on. When the first couple decided to attend the party last year, Melania Trump spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham seemed kind to the subject. "The president and the first lady are eager to open their homes to members of the media in the spirit of Christmas," she said in an email.

This time, there is only the bleak and cold silence of the White House.

The Christmas Press Party will join the list of other traditional social events that Trump has abandoned, including the honors ceremony at the Kennedy Center. He also missed the annual White House Correspondents Association dinner two years in a row.


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