White House Correspondents' Association chief: 'We are not fake news'

White House Correspondents' Association chief: 'We are not fake news'
© Getty

The president of the White House Correspondents' Association (WHCA) on Saturday pushed back against President TrumpDonald John TrumpJoe Arpaio loses bid for his old position as sheriff Trump brushes off view that Russia denigrating Biden: 'Nobody's been tougher on Russia than I have' Trump tees up executive orders on economy but won't sign yet MORE's claims that news outlets covering his administration critically are reporting "fake news."

"We are not fake news, we are not failing news organizations and we are not the enemy of the American people," WHCA president and Reuters correspondent Jeff Mason said at the organization's annual dinner.

Trump and his chief strategist Stephen Bannon have repeatedly referred to members of the media as the "enemy of the American people," while Trump himself has long maintained an antagonistic relationship with the press.

ADVERTISEMENT

Mason's speech received a mixed reception in the room. Many stood and applauded, but about half the audience stayed in their seats.

During his opening remarks, the WHCA president argued that "press access under President Trump has been very good," citing several press conferences in Trump's early days in office and reporters having access aboard Air Force One.

But he also went after Trump's rhetoric toward media outlets, saying, "Freedom of the press is a building block of our democracy. Undermining that by seeking to delegitimize journalists is dangerous to a healthy republic."

Trump broke from decades of tradition by turning down an invitation to attend Saturday's dinner, instead holding a rally in Pennsylvania to celebrate his first 100 days in office.

At the rally, Trump tore into the media, taking time to "rate" media members' performance covering his first 100 days.

"If the media’s job is to be honest and to tell the truth, then I think we would all agree the media deserves a very, very big, fat failing grade," Trump said.

The annual WHCA dinner draws a mixture of celebrities, journalists and political figures to honor White House correspondents and award scholarships to aspiring reporters. 

At many White House correspondents' dinners it can be difficult to hear the announcements of the scholarships over the chatter of the crowd.

On Saturday, it had the attention of the crowd, with scholarship winners receiving a loud standing ovation.