Trump defends $25 million in Kennedy Center funding in coronavirus stimulus
President Trump on Wednesday defended the inclusion of $25 million in funding for the Kennedy Center as part of the massive economic relief bill aimed at boosting small businesses and workers harmed by the fallout of the coronavirus.
Trump fashioned himself a supporter of the arts, arguing that the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts is deserving of assistance given its inability to put on shows as officials ban large gatherings to try to curb the spread of the virus.
“I’m a fan of that,” Trump said of the funding. “I haven’t spent time there because I’m far too busy. I’d love to go there evenings, but I’m too busy doing things.”
“The Kennedy Center, they do a beautiful job, an incredible job,” he added.
The president said an initial draft of the Senate’s roughly $2 trillion economic package called for $35 million in aid for the performing arts center, a figure that was later decreased to $25 million.
Many conservatives have cited the funding as an example of unnecessary spending in a bill meant to immediately assist workers and small businesses upended by the coronavirus.
The Kennedy Center has a bipartisan board of trustees, which includes first lady Melania Trump.
The arts hub, located on the Potomac River in Washington, D.C., is among the businesses impacted by federal guidelines that have called for Americans to limit gatherings to 10 or more people. The mayor of Washington, D.C., has also ordered nonessential businesses to close to try to contain the virus outbreak.
“You couldn’t go there if you wanted to,” the president said. “If I wanted to go there tonight to look at ‘Romeo and Juliet’ — I’d love to see ‘Romeo and Juliet’ tonight. But you know what would happen? Sorry, 250 people or 50 people or whatever it might be down to.”
The president and first lady have skipped attending the Kennedy Center Honors gala each of the past three years.