President Donald Trump on Friday called journalism a “great profession” during a meet-and-greet with a group of budding student newsmakers, a remark that stands in contrast to his frequent jabs at the press.
The exchange occurred as the president met outside the White House with the 2018 recipients of the White House Correspondents’ Association Scholarship, a program that awards high-achieving student journalists with grants and provides them mentorship opportunities.
Trump, who has repeatedly derided individual members of the press and decried what he calls “fake news” reporting, briefly paused his barbs toward the media at the event. The president told students their chosen career path was a “great profession,” according to reporters who were present.
The comment echoed those House Speaker Paul Ryan delivered earlier Friday, when he framed journalism as a “service to the country” during a luncheon with the group of students.
But the president’s praise for the profession was short-lived.
“Who wants to be a reporter?” the president said at one point as he polled the students, most of whom raised their hands, who were standing on the White House steps.
“They want to be reporters, can you believe it?” Trump said as he turned to the reporters gathered for the event.
Trump then turned back to the students and quipped, “See if you can hurry up and replace them,” as he gestured toward the press.
The student journalists are set to be honored at Saturday’s White House Correspondents’ Dinner, an event the president is again opting not to attend.
Trump’s decision to skip the glitzy Washington formal in his first year broke with decades of precedent by a sitting U.S. president and underscored Trump’s aggressive posture toward the news media.
Trump on Saturday will instead host a rally in Michigan opposite the dinner, marking the second year in a row that he will hold an event that effectively serves as counter-programming to the White House Correspondents’ Dinner.