And after addressing the throng for about two minutes, Mr. Trump declined to answer questions about his former national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn, who pleaded guilty on Friday to lying to the F.B.I. about his ties to Russia. The president did find time to greet Maria Bartiromo, the Fox Business host, complimenting her on her ratings, according to three guests who witnessed the exchange.
April D. Ryan, the White House correspondent for American Urban Radio Networks and one of the few black reporters in the White House briefing room, did not attend. She said this week that she had not received an invitation, despite attending annually under previous administrations.
“It is what it is,” she said in an interview. “Everybody’s more upset than I am. I am O.K.” A White House official said the slight had been inadvertent.
Social events that bring together journalists and the powerful people they cover can lead to touchy questions about coziness — and Mr. Trump’s recent anti-press comments made the buildup to the reception particularly tense.
In the past week, Mr. Trump derided NBC as “fake news practitioners,” proposed a contest to determine which television network was “the most dishonest, corrupt and/or distorted” (with the winner to receive a “FAKE NEWS TROPHY”) and denounced CNN International, prompting Libyan and Egyptian officials to dispute the channel’s reporting.
“The photos of journalists blushing and chumming with the Obamas was cringe-worthy,” Tim Miller, who served as chief spokesman for Jeb Bush’s presidential campaign, said before the affair. “Partying with a Trump administration that lies without shame and calls reporters the enemy of the people would just be pathetic.”
CNN declared that its employees would not attend Mr. Trump’s reception “in light of the president’s continued attacks on freedom of the press.”
But in the end, journalists from nearly every major television network and publication attended on Friday, including reporters for The New York Times. Some offered a form of muted protest: David Nakamura, a reporter for The Washington Post, wore a “First Amendment” lapel pin.
“With every administration, not just this administration, we are looking for opportunities to interact with folks in the White House,” said Christopher Isham, the Washington bureau chief for CBS News. “If you can do it in an environment that is a bit more social, a bit less formal, that’s probably not a bad thing.”
Friday’s reception (business attire requested) required guests and their plus-ones to pass through several security checkpoints. The White House was decorated with Christmas trees decked in fake snow and giant red bows, and a distinct aroma of pine greeted attendees who passed through a colonnade lined with white branches, a décor overseen by the first lady, Melania Trump.
Eggnog — boozy and virgin varieties — was served. In a nod to Hanukkah, there were also miniature potato latkes. The official White House holiday card, however, declared “Merry Christmas,” in contrast to the nondenominational versions sent by the Obamas.
“I’m bringing my wife, because she puts up with 24/7 news cycles, so I look forward to treating her to an afternoon out,” said Charlie Spiering, Breitbart’s senior White House correspondent. He added that Breitbart writers had not been invited to the reception during the Obama administration. (Other right-wing news outlets like Newsmax also received invitations.)
Among the guests spotted entering the White House: Bill Shine, a former co-president of Fox News, who was briefly considered for a position in the administration; the “CBS This Morning” host Norah O’Donnell; and the anchor Greta Van Susteren. In a break from past years, the White House press office also invited network camera crews and technicians who work in the West Wing.
Like the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner, the president’s holiday reception has faced occasional criticism over the years. But the Trump presidency has placed long-accepted Washington folkways under a national microscope, and critics on the right and the left seize on any twitch or tweet by White House reporters that could suggest anti-Trump bias or pro-Trump sycophancy.
“I have to say I’m conflicted about it,” Sally Quinn, an arbiter of Washington’s social mores, said in an interview. “My feeling is, if you’re a journalist and you cover the White House, it is probably a good idea to go.”
She added: “There are these moments of civility, and I think that any moment of civility should be encouraged.”
Brian Karem, a correspondent for the Sentinel newspapers in Maryland, who frequently clashes with White House officials at briefings, did not receive an invitation. “I wear it as a badge of honor,” he said of the snub.
Even so, he allowed that the event did carry a certain allure. “If you haven’t gone before, you want to go at least once,” Mr. Karem said. “It is the White House.”