- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 28, 2018

For the second year in a row, Mr. Trump will skip the White House Correspondent’s Dinner on Saturday, and instead join around 10,000 of his favorite people at a patriotic campaign-style rally in a Michigan sports arena.

“Why would I want to be stuck in a room with a bunch of fake news liberals who hate me?” the president asked a public message to his ardent fans. “I’m going to hold a rally in Michigan to spend the evening with my favorite deplorables who love our movement and love America.”

Some of those fans couldn’t wait.

Randal Thom of Lakefield, Minnesota and Cindy Hoffman of Independence, Iowa were the first to show up at Total Sports Park outside Detroit, arriving at 3 a.m. Friday — a full 49 hours before show time according to the Detroit News.

They are proud “Front Row Joes” — those dedicated earlybirds who arrive with chairs and supplies and earn the best spots in the house. They are ready to root for the president.

“We need to get out here and support him. He’s getting attacked left and right,” said Mr. Thom, a Marine Corps veteran who hopped in his car earlier in the week and drove 850 miles to make the event.

Mr. Trump’s critics will also be ready. At least three protest groups plan to march outside the arena.

Fox News and C-SPAN will cover the rally live beginning at 7 p.m. ET. The other cable news networks — particularly CNN — have their cameras trained primarily on the White House Correspondents Dinner. CNN will begin their coverage at 7 p.m.; C-SPAN will join in at 9:30 p.m. for the after-dinner remarks by comedian Michelle Wolf, praised for her “feminist edge” by the White House Correspondents Association itself, and a contributor to Netflix and Comedy Central.

Though Mr. Trump will not be present, Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders and counselor to the president Kellyanne Conway will represent the White House.

Meanwhile, there have already been a dozen private pre-parties of various persuasions around Washington leading up to the event — plus six after parties and three Sunday brunches.

There is one new comer to the “correspondents” realm this year. Playboy Enterprises — yes, that Playboy — will stage a ‘No Tie Party’ late Saturday evening a few blocks south of the big dinner, into the wee hours. The host is the late Hugh Hefner’s son Cooper Hefner — creative director of the Playboy empire.

“Playboy was at the front lines when being progressive first became politicized. Playboy was playful even during times of unprecedented tumult. It is the articulation of pleasure, freedom, and stimulation and a living challenge to the personal, political and cultural forces that aim to prohibit these expressions,” the news organization said in a formal statement. “Playboy has always been a passionate fighter for the First Amendment and for a free press in general.”

• Jennifer Harper can be reached at jharper@washingtontimes.com.

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