Party on? The White House's holiday press soiree may be a ghost of Christmas past
The holiday season might be getting a bit less cheerful for the White House press corps.
The annual Christmas press party, a tradition at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. for decades, apparently has melted away like a snowflake in May. The White House hasn't said the event is off - but it hasn't scheduled it, either.
White House reporters say they're in the dark about its fate. The party is usually held in early to mid-December.
While the reasons for the nonevent are unclear - the White House didn't return requests for comment - it may have something to do with the fiasco that was last year's party, the first under President Donald Trump.
In 2017, Trump's continued attacks on the press, and especially against CNN, prompted the network to announce that it wouldn't be attending the event. White House press secretary Sarah Sanders responded to the snub with a snub of her own: "Christmas comes early!" she tweet-taunted in response. "Finally, good news from @CNN."
Sanders and Trump also pointedly left reporter April Ryan off their guest list. Ryan, the White House correspondent for American Urban Radio Networks and a CNN contributor, had repeatedly clashed with Sanders, and occasionally Trump, during press briefings. It was the first time in 20 years of covering the White House that Ryan wasn't invited.
If that wasn't enough Christmas spirit for everyone, the administration changed the time of the party from evening to midafternoon on a weekday, making it more difficult for journalists to bring spouses or their children as their guests.
Adding to the fun, Trump and first lady Melania Trump skipped another tradition at last year's party: Posing for photos with reporters. Presidents and first ladies have taken these pictures for years, standing for hours as the journalists and their plus-ones line up for a souvenir that ends up on social media or an ego wall at home. The White House gives the photos to guests.
The cookies-and-punch party was always meant as a kind of seasonal olive branch extended by the administration to the press, providing a few hours' truce in the daily news battles. (Bah-humbug types have long said the party was a hideously bad look for reporters, who aren't supposed to be doing grip-and-grins with the people they cover.)
The spectacle grew even more awkward and hypocritical last year, however, with Trump's constant berating of the media as "fake news" and the "enemy" of the American people.
Despite all that, the tradition stumbled on. When the first couple decided to attend the party last year, Melania Trump's spokeswoman, Stephanie Grisham, sounded gracious about it. "The President and First Lady look forward to opening their home to members of the media in the spirit of the Christmas season," she said in an email beforehand.
This time around, there's only stony-cold silence from the White House.
The Christmas press party will join the list of other traditional social events Trump has dumped, including attending the Kennedy Center Honors ceremony. He's also skipped the annual White House Correspondents' Association dinner two years running.
This article was written by Paul Farhi, a reporter for The Washington Post.