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Those White House Correspondents’ Association Scholarships
Jeffrey Lord
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As news reports told a story of this or that media organization planning to skip the first White House Correspondents’ Dinner featuring President Donald Trump, the president suddenly beat them to the punch. In a 4:53 .p.m Saturday tweet, the president said this:

I will not be attending the White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner this year. Please wish everyone well and have a great evening!

Oh noooooooo! How could he! The media was planning on boycotting him! Now he was boycotting them!!! That’s not fair!

The news that the White House Correspondents’ Association was being drained of its annual star guest — the incumbent president of the United States — rocketed around the Washington swamp. Headlined the Washington Post:

Trump to skip White House correspondents’ dinner: ‘No reason for him to go in and sit and pretend’

Wrote the Post:

On Sunday, White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders acknowledged on ABC’s “This Week” that there had been tensions between the president and the media.

“I think it’s… kind of naive of us to think that we can all walk into a room for a couple of hours and pretend that some of that tension isn’t there,” Sanders told “This Week” host George Stephanopoulos.

Trump would skip the dinner to instead “spend the night focused on what he can do to help better America,” Sanders said.

“You know, one of the things we say in the South [is] ‘If a Girl Scout egged your house, would you buy cookies from her?’ I think that this is a pretty similar scenario,” Sanders added. “There’s no reason for him to go in and sit and pretend like this is going to be just another Saturday night.”…

Shortly after Trump’s tweet on Saturday, the president of the White House Correspondents’ Association, which sponsors the annual event, said in an email that the dinner would take place even without Trump’s attendance.

The dinner “has been and will continue to be a celebration of the First Amendment and the important role played by an independent news media in a healthy republic,” said Jeff Mason, WHCA president. “We look forward to shining a spotlight at the dinner on some of the best political journalism of the past year and recognizing the promising students who represent the next generation of our profession.”

Stop. Catch the last part of that line? This part: “… and recognizing the promising students who represent the next generation of our profession.”

This is a reference to the fact that the Correspondents’ Dinner uses its proceeds to fund scholarships for those “promising students” who are the “next generation of our profession.” Now. What questions are not being asked here — by journalists? Journalists whose job it is to ask questions. What is the elephant in the room that seems to be blissfully ignored?

What is the central complaint of President Trump? And indeed the routine complaint of Republican presidents and presidential candidates (not to mention rank-and-file conservatives) for decades? That would be that the media suffers from what seems to be — after several decades of this — an incurable liberal bias. And not by accident, either. All those polls taken over the years (like this one from Pew in 2008) repeatedly show a heavy liberal tilt in the journalism community. The White House Correspondents’ Association is but a drop in the ocean of today’s media, yet a look at the scholarship winners the group advertises on its website is a telling if not startling look at how liberal bias in the media is self-perpetuated, passed from one generation to the next.

Here is the link to the overall site. And a visit here to the section labeled “Scholarships” shows winners from last year with President Obama. And what does the site say? This:

WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENTS’ ASSOCIATION ANNOUNCES 2016 SCHOLARS

The White House Correspondents’ Association is pleased to announce 18 scholarship winners in partnership with Howard University, Northwestern University, Columbia University, University of Missouri, University of California at Berkeley, University of Maryland, and the George Washington University.

So far, so good. Then it lists the winners — and their interests. Among those interests?

  • A Howard University winner “is determined to write about the plight of what he calls America’s ‘throwaway’ people: the homeless on our streets, often mentally ill, who are sometimes ignored in our society.”
  • A Northwestern University, Medill School of Journalism winner wants “to hone her skills as a political and social justice reporter.”
  • A Columbia School of Journalism winner wants to use her reporting skills for “ultimately focusing on political Islam; problems faced by Muslim immigrants and the way religion in general and Islam in particular is abused by radicals in underdeveloped countries.”
  • A University of Missouri, Columbia winner says her “favorite stories are those that involve issues of corporate social responsibility.”
  • Another University of Missouri, Columbia winner enjoys “writing about the connectivity of science, health and the environment with social justice issues.”
  • A University of California, Berkeley winner has been writing “for media outlets such as Univision Noticias.”
  • A University of Maryland, College Park winner “does volunteer work with organizations such as the Maryland Association of Black Journalists, the Capitol Area Food Bank, SHARE Food Network and Kaiser Permanente.”

Notice a curious pattern here? Not one of the universities that WHCA partners with has a reputation for conservatism. There is, for example, no partnership with a Hillsdale College or Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University or some similar conservative institution of higher learning. And note all of these winners are interested in using their journalistic skills on issues like social justice, the homeless, the abuse of Islam by radicals, corporate social responsibility and more. Strangely, in terms of the political spectrum, every one of these issues and more are traditionally identified as issues important to liberals. Not one of these winners, one suspects, would be into investigating Planned Parenthood. There are, one similarly suspects, no pro-lifers here. The winner who contributes to Univision Noticias, famously the home of Trump critics like anchorman Jorge Ramos, is, one suspects, not eager to be a conservative journalist. One can also suspect that these kids will not be seeking writing jobs here at The American Spectator or interning for Rush Limbaugh or Sean Hannity at Fox. Indeed, Rush informs that to the degree he has used interns in his various projects they are “never from WCHA.” Hannity was a similar negative, when asked. And a query to Wlady Pleszczynski, the editorial director of The American Spectator and editor of AmSpec Online, as to whether there had ever been a WCHA scholarship winner on the premises drew this response: “A joke question, right!?”

Let’s be clear. Hooray for scholarships. Hooray for ambitious college kids who want a future in journalism. But, at least per the WCHA’s own website, the winners selected by the group for 2016 seem to have been — to a person — not just young journalists in training but more to the point young liberal journalists in training. All drawn from a pool supplied by liberal universities. If past WHCA scholarship winners have wound up anywhere in the conservative media — at, say, the Washington Times, Glenn Beck’s the Blaze, National Review, or — gasp! — Breitbart, there is no indication. (Indeed, in the current day, one can only imagine the uproar inside the WHCA, if a scholarship winner was in any way associated with Steve Bannon’s favorite conservative site.)

Among other things, what the dust-up over President Trump’s non-appearance at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner has revealed is that presidents of the United States are used as the main attraction to fund a scholarship program that, in turn, funds young liberal journalists, the particular irony being that Republican Presidents have been essentially used to perpetuate the liberal media bias that they and their supporters so frequently complain of.

Whether or not President Trump intended to bring the spotlight on this interesting practice by declining to attend the 2017 dinner is not clear. But, in fact, he has done exactly that.

Will the White House Correspondents’ Association make a serious effort at funding intellectual diversity in the media? Will some aspiring young Breitbart or Spectator or Rush or Hannity fan get a shot at writing or working for a conservative favorite, courtesy of WHCA? Will WHCA ever partner with a Hillsdale or Liberty University? Stay tuned. But one can be forgiven for thinking the Trump White House — not to mention conservatives in general — are not holding their breath.

Jeffrey Lord
Jeffrey Lord
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 Jeffrey Lord, a contributing editor to The American Spectator, is a former aide to Jack Kemp and Ronald Reagan. An author and CNN commentator, he writes from Pennsylvania at jlpa1@aol.com and @JeffJlpa1. His new book, What America Needs: The Case for Trump, is now out from Regnery Publishing.
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