If you’re a member of Washington’s self-flagellating Beltway media establishment, you might find yourself faced with a seasonally-appropriate conundrum: You’re invited to the White House’s annual Christmas party for members of the media and don’t know if it’s right to attend.
The answer is simple: Do not go.
While CNN has already bravely announced they’ll be boycotting the shindig over President Donald Trump’s “continued attacks on freedom of the press and CNN,” they stand alone. According to Politico, no other outlet has said they plan to hold back staffers who are invited and plan to attend.
Perhaps most baffling, Peter Baker, who lugs around the illustrious title of The New York Times’ chief White House correspondent, said he was going to the party and would even be fine with taking a picture with Trump.
Baker told the site:
It’s not our job to be bothered. It’s our job to do our job. Every president to a greater or lesser degree is unhappy with the coverage, and has an adversarial relationship of sorts with the people who cover him every day, so that goes with the territory. This one happens to be more vocal about it.
Isn’t it just like The New York Times to swing too far in the opposite direction in a misguided effort to project its supposed objectivity?
New York writer Olivia Nuzzi, who’s recently become known for palling around with some of the most notable figures on the resurgent far-right, said she wasn’t invited to the party and even if she had been, she wouldn’t attend. But check out her full statement (emphasis added):
“While I don’t think it’s improper to attend social events with the president per se,” she said in an email, “I personally am uncomfortable with the idea of being a guest in this White House for a party (if I would not be covering the party), given Donald Trump’s stated threats to the First Amendment and general lack of understanding or interest in its importance. For that reason, my personal feelings are that it sends the wrong message to schmooze under mistletoe while our freedoms are under attack. That said, I don’t judge colleagues who arrive at a different conclusion.”
It’s pretty messed up that you’d want to party with the man who’s single-handedly waging war on “our freedoms,” but we’re definitely still cool if you want to!
This is the worst of the self-serving insularity that makes Washington the reeking, incestuous swamp it is. Journalists want to go to the party with the president this year, just as they have all these years, to pretend everything is normal and that their job is not diminished every day by Trump’s keystrokes.
But the broader reasons why no self-respecting journalist should attend are similar to the reasons why you should not under any circumstances, no matter who the president is, go to the White House Correspondents’ Dinner. Watching elite political journalists—who would have you believe they are the final line of defense still propping up our democracy—preen and pose for pictures with the president is a carnival of vulgarity with no discernable purpose besides making the chosen few feel even more important.
The reporters forced to justify why they want to take half the day off to eat expensive cocktail weenies might try to claim they’re attending for the event’s news value to the public—something reportable might happen! But unless they’re trying to get off-the-record tips about who’s fucking up the White House now from the coterie of back-biting West Wing staffers in attendance, this claim is bullshit. It’s occasions like these—where the Washington elite mingle and mix—that serve as a photo-op-ready reminder for why the rest of America hates DC and the press.
If you’re a journalist, you should not socialize with the politicians and staffers you’re charged with covering, period. And if big-name journalists were as concerned about the public’s ire for their profession as they claim to be, they would stay the hell away from White House functions.