WASHINGTON (AFP) - Donald Trump will again snub the annual White House correspondents' dinner, organisers said on Friday (April 6), amid sustained attacks by the president on US media.
While other members of his administration are expected to attend the dinner in Washington on April 28, it will be the second year in a row that the president himself will stay away.
"The White House has informed us that the president does not plan to participate in this year's dinner," Margaret Talev, the president of the White House Correspondents' Association, said in a statement.
Trump regularly accuses major media organisations such as CNN, The New York Times and The Washington Post of bias, and he organised a rally of supporters on the same evening as last year's dinner.
The Republican president's assaults on the "fake news" media have sharpened in recent weeks and have included attacks on CNN president Jeff Zucker and Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, who owns The Washington Post.
Since taking up the presidency, Trump has strongly favoured news outlets that provide glowing coverage such as Fox News, the Daily Caller, Newsmax and Sinclair, a group of almost 200 local TV stations.
Sinclair sparked controversy by recently forcing reporters to read a script about "fake stories" in the mainstream media.
'CELEBRATE THE FIRST AMENDMENT'
A recent Knight-Gallup Poll showed 43 per cent of Americans have a negative view of the news media, but more importantly for Trump, that figure is 68 per cent among Republicans.
Talev said that while Trump would not attend the dinner, the White House had said the president would "actively encourage members of the executive branch to attend and join us as we celebrate the First Amendment", which guarantees freedom of speech.
"In keeping with tradition, press secretary Sarah Sanders also will represent the administration at the head table," Talev added.
Trump was famously ridiculed by his predecessor Barack Obama in a speech at the dinner in 2011.
Trump renewed his attacks on the media early on Friday, rebuffing suggestions he was considering replacing Attorney-General Jeff Sessions with the embattled Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt.
Pruitt has been accused of taking favours from lobbyists, luxurious travel arrangements and firing staff who objected.
He rented Capitol Hill accommodation from the wife of an energy lobbyist last year at the below-market rate of US$50 (S$65) a day and used taxpayer funds for first-class travel.
The stream of allegations prompted even Republicans to demand Pruitt's ouster.
But Trump insisted the issue was with the "Fake News Media." Pruitt, he said, "is doing a great job but is TOTALLY under siege".
"Do people really believe this stuff? So much of the media is dishonest and corrupt!"
No stranger to controversy, Pruitt is a climate change sceptic who honed his views as attorney general of Oklahoma and has since sought to limit the influence of scientists in EPA policymaking.