Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiPelosi criticized after thanking Floyd for 'sacrificing' his life Waters on Chauvin guilty verdict: 'I'm not celebrating, I'm relieved' Minneapolis mayor on Floyd: 'Ultimately his life will have bettered our city' 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 TrumpSt. Louis lawyer who pointed gun at Black Lives Matter protesters considering Senate run Chauvin found guilty as nation exhales US says Iran negotiations are 'positive' 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 MnuchinDemocrats justified in filibustering GOP, says Schumer Yellen provides signature for paper currency Biden's name will not appear on stimulus checks, White House says MORE, Commerce Secretary Wilbur RossWilbur Louis RossFormer Trump officials find tough job market On The Money: Retail sales drop in latest sign of weakening economy | Fast-food workers strike for minimum wage | US officials raise concerns over Mexico's handling of energy permits US officials raise concerns over Mexico's handling of energy permits MORE, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and Education Secretary Betsy DeVosBetsy DeVosHeadhunters having hard time finding jobs for former Trump officials: report Education Department moves to reverse Trump-era rules on campus sexual misconduct Watchdog says DeVos made nine figures in outside income during Trump years 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 LeahySenate GOP faces post-Trump spending brawl Senate Democrats call on Biden to restore oversight of semiautomatic and sniper rifle exports Bottom line 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 PaulOn The Money: Senate GOP faces post-Trump spending brawl | Senate confirms SEC chief Gensler to full five-year term | Left-leaning group raises concerns about SALT cap repeal Senate GOP faces post-Trump spending brawl 15 Senate Republicans pledge to oppose lifting earmark ban 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 PompeoMike PompeoHouse passes legislation to elevate cybersecurity at the State Department The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - All US adults now eligible for COVID vaccines Parade of 2024 GOP hopefuls court House conservatives 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 DingellProgressive lawmaker to introduce bill seeking more oversight of Israel assistance Overnight Energy: Michigan reps reintroduce measure for national 'forever chemicals' standard |  White House says gas tax won't be part of infrastructure bill Mark Ruffalo joins bipartisan lawmakers in introducing chemical regulation bill MORE (D-Mich.); CBS’s Norah O’Donnell and Margaret Brennan; Fox News’s Bret Baier; Sens. Bob MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezBiden rebuffs Democrats, keeps refugee admissions at 15,000 Bottom line The Memo: Biden's five biggest foreign policy challenges MORE (D-N.J.) and Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenSchumer on 4/20: Bill coming to end federal marijuana prohibition GOP senator: Raising corporate taxes is a 'non-starter' Democrats get good news from IRS MORE (D-Ore.); Metallica’s Lars Ulrich on-hand to deliver remarks about Tilson Thomas; Transportation Secretary Elaine ChaoElaine ChaoThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Tax March - US vaccine effort takes hit with Johnson & Johnson pause Gingrich on Trump-McConnell feud: GOP 'better off' focusing on Democrats Trump rips McConnell in speech to Republicans 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.