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President-Free Correspondents' Dinner May be 'Healthiest Thing,' Says CNN Reporter

CNN anchor Don Lemon arrives at the White House Correspondents' Dinner in Washington on April 29, 2017. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)

WASHINGTON – Multiple CNN news personalities applauded President Trump’s decision to skip the White House Correspondents’ Dinner and attend a rally in Harrisburg, Pa., instead.

Trump is the first president to not attend the dinner since President Reagan in 1981.

“I think it’s a decision he wanted to make, so it’s fine. I mean, he’s the president of the United States. He wants to go to Pennsylvania. He wants to talk to his crowd. Good for him. Go for it,” CNN anchor Don Lemon told PJM on the red carpet at the dinner Saturday evening.

Hardly any Hollywood faces attended this year’s dinner. In past years, celebrities including Will Smith, Tom Cruise, Scarlett Johansson, Kevin Spacey and Kim Kardashian came to Washington for the event.

CNN senior White House correspondent Jim Acosta said Trump’s absence at the Washington Hilton Hotel put the evening’s focus on journalism.

“What I’ve been saying is the news is the star tonight, as corny as that sounds. We’re going to have a lot of student journalists in the room who are going to be recognized for their hard work. They’re going to be given scholarships and prizes and all that, which is terrific,” he said. “And we at CNN are going to have student journalists at our table instead of celebrities, so this might be the healthiest thing to ever happen to the correspondents’ dinner. I’m glad to see it.”

CNN commentator Van Jones said Trump missed a good opportunity to rally his base at the correspondents’ dinner.

“I think it was a bad idea, but not for the reason that everybody else thinks. It’s not that Trump can’t take a joke, it’s that Trump missed the opportunity to deliver some jokes and to rally his base in the belly of the beast,” Jones said. “People love to see their guy go be Daniel in the lion’s den, you know, and just take them on. And I thought it was just a little bit off-brand for him to go, kind of, scurrying off when he could have come – he’s president of the United States. They get a chance to talk and he gets a chance to talk. Why didn’t he take that chance?”

Jake Tapper, host of CNN’s The Lead, said he is “always” in favor of elected officials visiting the swing state of Pennsylvania, his home state.

“[Trump] says he doesn’t want to be here because he doesn’t like the media and he doesn’t want to be phony and pretend he does. I disagree with his position on the media, but saying he doesn’t want to be phony is a good thing, I think, ultimately. And I’m always for anybody going to Pennsylvania and spending a lot of money and improving the lives of the people in the Keystone state. Look, that’s the state that put him over the top – that’s the state a lot of people thought he never would win, you know, good for him for respecting that,” Tapper told PJM.

“The fact that the Clinton people were spending that last rally, all that energy, in Philly, I was like, that’s not a good sign. They shouldn’t be in Philadelphia on election night. They shouldn’t have to be here and, by the way, and you know this as a Pennsylvanian, they had Springsteen, they had Bon Jovi, those guys are from Jersey, you know what I mean. Where’s The Roots? Where’s Hall and Oates? That’s what I wanted to see,” he added.