Washington, Apr 30 (PTI) Under Donald Trump, access to the press in the White House has been “very good”, the head of the White House Correspondents Association (WHCA) said, but asserted that the media is not “fake news”, a term frequently used by the US president to slam the media.
Acknowledging that there were apprehensions on the fate of the media under a Trump administration, WHCA president Jeff Mason said reporters are still on Air Force One and they are still inside the White House.
“We have worked very hard to build a constructive relationship with his [President Trump’s] press team. There are clear dividends from those efforts. The press is still in the White House briefing room, and we are still on Air Force One,” he said.
Citing several press conferences and pooled events at the White House daily, Mason said, “press access under President Trump has been very good”.
“Nevertheless, we cannot ignore the rhetoric that has been employed by the president about who we are and what we do. Freedom of the press is a building block of our democracy.
Undermining that by seeking to delegitimise journalists is dangerous to a healthy republic,” he added.
“It is our job to report on facts and to hold leaders accountable. That is who we are. We are not ‘fake news,'” said Mason, who represents Reuters at the White House.
“We are not failing news organisations. And we are not the enemy of the American people,” he said as he received standing ovation from a 2600-strong audience.
This is for the first time in decades that a US President has not attend the annual event.
“Tonight looks a little different, but the values that underpin this dinner have not changed. In fact I think they’ve been reinforced. We are here to celebrate the press not the presidency,” he said in an apparent reference to the absence of the US President from the event.
The key note speech to the event was delivered by Watergate reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein.
In their remarks the two recounted their reporting experience that uncover Watergate some 40 years ago.
“Like politicians and presidents sometimes, perhaps too frequently, we make mistakes and go too far,” Woodward said.
“When that happens we should own up to it. But the effort today to get this best obtainable version of the truth is largely made in good faith. Mr President, the media is not ‘fake new’,” Woodward said.
This is published unedited from the PTI feed.