“Since the Speaker has chosen to tear this Nation apart with her actions and her rhetoric, the President will not participate in moments where she so often chooses to drive discord and disunity, and will instead celebrate the rich history and strong ties between the United States and Ireland at the White House on March 12,” said White House deputy press secretary Judd Deere in a statement. “The relationship between our two countries has never been stronger, and the President looks forward to welcoming the Prime Minister of Ireland for the annual Shamrock Bowl presentation.”
The St. Patrick’s Day lunch has been held annually since 1987. Since its inception, there have been only four times when a president has not attended, but in each instance, presidents have sent their vice presidents in their places.
In response to the White House’s comment, Drew Hammill, Pelosi’s deputy chief of staff, told CNN: “There has never been stronger support in the Congress and in the country for the U.S.- Ireland bilateral relationship. One would think that the White House could set petty, partisan politics aside for this historic occasion.”
Despite growing fears of a wider coronavirus outbreak, a senior White House official said the decision to skip the lunch had nothing to do with health precautions. Officials in the District of Columbia revealed the first case of the virus on Saturday.
The senior White House official said Trump decided not to attend on February 14, the same day he reviewed Pelosi’s invitation, which was dated the 13th.
The White House sent Trump’s response to Pelosi’s office on February 28, according to the official, so the decision was final more than a week ago.
CORRECTION: This story has been updated to correct the spelling of Hammill’s name and to reflect that he was responding to the White House’s comment.