Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiTop Federal Reserve official: Further coronavirus stimulus bill may not be needed Schumer: Fired inspector general will be remembered as a 'hero' Clyburn says stimulus spending oversight committee will be 'forward looking' MORE (D-Calif.) received a standing ovation at a Trump-less Kennedy Center Honors late Sunday, which largely stayed away from political talk but had moments that alluded to the tense partisan climate around the country.

The ceremony in Washington celebrated five honorees for their lifetime artistic achievements, including actress Sally Field, the children’s TV show “Sesame Street,” singer Linda Ronstadt, conductor Michael Tilson Thomas and the band Earth, Wind & Fire.

While President TrumpDonald John TrumpCampaigns face attack ad dilemma amid coronavirus crisis Outgoing inspector general says Trump fired him for carrying out his 'legal obligations' Trump hits Illinois governor after criticism: 'I hear him complaining all the time' MORE was noticeably absent for the third year in a row from the star-studded gala — which is traditionally attended by the commander in chief — Kennedy Center Board Chairman David Rubenstein said in remarks to the crowd that a record number of lawmakers and government officials were at the 42nd annual soiree.


“We have more leaders of our government than I’ve ever seen at a Kennedy Center Honors,” Rubenstein said.

After a restrained round of applause from the audience for an array of Trump administration Cabinet members, including Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven Terner MnuchinTens of thousands of travelers from China arrived in US as administration debated restrictions: report Pelosi, McConnell clash over next coronavirus bill Trump eyes additional funds for small businesses impacted by pandemic MORE, Commerce Secretary Wilbur RossWilbur Louis RossTariffs on imported oil: A bad idea at the wrong time Tourism industry estimates 4.6 million travel-related jobs lost due to coronavirus 2020 census to run ads on 'Premio lo Nuestro' MORE, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and Education Secretary Betsy DeVosElizabeth (Betsy) Dee DeVosCoronavirus bill allows DeVos to waive parts of federal special education law: NYT Students with disabilities could lose with COVID-19 stimulus package White House slams pastor leading Cabinet Bible studies for linking homosexuality, coronavirus MORE, among others, Rubenstein said, “We have over 40 members of Congress here tonight.”

“I can’t mention you all, but let me just mention the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi,” said Rubenstein.

Suddenly, the audience rose to their feet with zealous cheers and applause.

Saying he was going to next mention “the most senior member of the United States Senate,” Sen. Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyJustice IG pours fuel on looming fight over FISA court Democratic senators ask Pompeo to provide coronavirus aid to Palestinian territories Mnuchin emerges as key asset in Trump's war against coronavirus MORE, Rubenstein quipped that the Vermont Democrat might not get the same enthusiastic reception as Pelosi.


At the top of the show — which will air Dec. 15 on CBS — host LL Cool J shared a message, saying the 2019 honorees use their art “to remind us that as a nation we need to stick together.”

It was a similar call for unity that the “Mama Said Knock You Out” rapper had told ITK on the red carpet ahead of the black-tie event.

“One hundred, 200, 300 years from now, we want our future generations to actually have a country,” the actor, a 2017 Honors recipient, said of the current political climate. “So while we disagree, we have to disagree in a way that’s going to set us up to have a future.”

“I get all of the strife and the tension,” the performer continued. “But at the same time, we got to think about the big picture. If I go in your house right now, and me and a guy I know, we get into a huge fight and a big rumble, we’re going to tear all the furniture in your house.”

“The coffee table’s going to be banged over, couches going to be turned over, tables going to be turned over because we didn’t resolve our differences properly. And look what it does to the house. So a house soon divided will fall, right?”


When a reporter noted Trump’s absence to “Lincoln” actress Field — who in 2016 said she didn’t understand why people had voted for the New York developer-turned-politician — she replied she “wouldn’t be” at the gala if he had attended.

“I’m very closely watching everything,” Field told ITK of the 2020 field of White House contenders. “Like many people, I haven’t landed yet. But I’m applauding almost everyone.”

Asked about Trump’s chances of winning reelection next year, the Academy Award winner responded, “I couldn’t possibly know. All I know is I’m going to be one of the people working as hard as I can do — as we all should be, whatever your beliefs are — working as hard as you can to get people to the polls, to make sure voting is fair, to fight for the things you believe in.”

Buzz about 2020 took a lighter — and tastier — turn as Cookie Monster made his way down the press line ahead of the Honors ceremony.

What would the chocolate chip–loving “Sesame Street” star’s platform be if he were to make a White House bid?

“Me have no desire to run for president. That not in me game plan at all,” Cookie Monster stated matter-of-factly.

While much of Washington is focused on the impeachment proceedings in the House against Trump, Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulGeorgia governor says he didn't know asymptomatic people could spread coronavirus McConnell: Impeachment distracted government from coronavirus threat Warren knocks McConnell for forcing in-person Senate vote amid coronavirus pandemic MORE (R-Ky.) said there was one personality in town who was actively avoiding that and other potentially thorny subjects: Big Bird.

“I think he doesn’t like politics that much, so we’re going to try to keep that [conversation] away from impeachment,” Paul said. “Don’t talk about turkey or Thanksgiving too much, he’s sensitive about being cooked, that kind of thing.”

Also eyed at the annual gala: Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoTrump administration eyes Afghan security forces funding for aid cut: report Trump says 40,000 Americans have been repatriated who were stranded abroad US should adopt a Marshall Plan for Ethiopia MORE and Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, who were seated next to each other, standing up and clapping to the beat while Ne-Yo performed “Sing a Song” to honor Earth, Wind & Fire; Mnuchin dancing along to the Jonas Brothers’ version of “Boogie Wonderland” while Pelosi stayed seated; Rep. Debbie DingellDeborah (Debbie) Ann DingellOvernight Energy: Trump rolls back Obama-era fuel efficiency standards | Controversial Keystone XL construction to proceed | Pressure mounts to close national parks amid pandemic Critics blast Trump mileage rollback, citing environment and health concerns Coronavirus stimulus package shouldn't leave out older Americans MORE (D-Mich.); CBS’s Norah O’Donnell and Margaret Brennan; Fox News’s Bret Baier; Sens. Bob MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezHillicon Valley: Facebook launches portal for coronavirus information | EU sees spike in Russian misinformation on outbreak | Senate Dem bill would encourage mail-in voting | Lawmakers question safety of Google virus website Democratic senators press Google over privacy of coronavirus screening site Menendez calls for 'Marie Yovanovitch bill' to protect foreign service employees MORE (D-N.J.) and Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenDemocrats ask EPA, Interior to pause rulemaking amid coronavirus Democrats say more unemployment benefits needed in wake of record unemployment claims Democrats fear coronavirus impact on November turnout MORE (D-Ore.); Metallica’s Lars Ulrich on-hand to deliver remarks about Tilson Thomas; Transportation Secretary Elaine ChaoElaine Lan ChaoOvernight Energy: Trump rolls back Obama-era fuel efficiency standards | Controversial Keystone XL construction to proceed | Pressure mounts to close national parks amid pandemic Critics blast Trump mileage rollback, citing environment and health concerns Trump administration rolls back Obama-era fuel efficiency standards MORE; Garth Brooks cheering on his wife, Tricia Yearwood, as she belted out “You’re no Good” for Ronstadt’s Honors segment; Tom Hanks yukking it up with Big Bird for a scripted segment for the show in which the giant canary was looking for his seating partner he thought was named “Thanks,” rather than “T. Hanks”; Steven Spielberg; Carrie Underwood; John Legend; magician David Copperfield; Broadway star Audra McDonald; Pierce Brosnan; Lucy Liu; Joseph Gordon-Levitt; country singer Thomas Rhett; Cedric the Entertainer; Don Henley; and Emmylou Harris.