President Donald Trump awarded his first round of National Medal of Arts and National Medal of Humanities to eight recipients on Thursday.
Recipients included the chef at the Inn at Little Washington, 27-time Grammy Award-winning musician Alison Krauss, the best-selling novelist James Patterson and Academy Award-winning actor Jon Voight.
“Great nations produce great thinkers, artists, musicians and scholars who make our world a more beautiful, enlightened and joyful place,” Trump said during the awards reception in the East Room. “Each of today’s recipients has made outstanding contributions to society, culture and life. They exemplify the genius, talent and creativity of our exceptional nation.”
The White House announced earlier this week that the President would be awarding four of each medal, with some recipients being recognized as a group, such as the United States Military’s musicians and the Claremont Institute, a conservative think tank.
The medal ceremony was the President’s only scheduled public appearance on Thursday, which took place as members of Congress heard from witnesses during the fifth day of the public impeachment hearings. The President did not comment on the impeachment inquiry – which is examining his alleged abuse of power – during the East Room ceremony.
Voight is an outspoken Trump supporter and Patterson, who published a book co-written with former President Bill Clinton in 2018, is a member of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago golf club. Trump called both men his friends when delivering remarks at the White House ceremony.
There were a few odd moments during the East Room event. Voight at one point when loud music played off cue, began to dance on stage, by himself, in front of the audience and next to the President.
And while congratulating author Patterson, Trump admitted he had sold more books than even Trump, though pointed out he hadn’t sold more than the Bible.
The medals have typically been awarded on an annual basis, but this will be the first time Trump has awarded the medals since taking office in 2017.
In 2017, the 16 remaining members of the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities resigned in protest of Trump’s defense of white nationalists during demonstrations in Charlottesville, Virginia. The committee, established by then-President Ronald Reagan, was among the ceremonial White House committees tasked with advising the president on arts and humanities issues.
CNN’s Greg Clary contributed to this report.