Some Fox News hosts have criticized one item in the massive $2 trillion coronavirus relief package: $25 million for the Kennedy Center.
But President Donald Trump, at his daily press briefing Wednesday, defended the outlay, saying that the arts organization has “suffered greatly” because it has been forced to cancel performances and close during the crisis.
“It was $35 million but we took off 10, but I am a fan of that,” he said. “The Kennedy Center has suffered greatly because no one can go there. It is essentially closed. And they do need some funding. I said, ‘Look, that was a Democrat request. That was not my request.’ And I said, you have got to give them something. It is something that they wanted. The Democrats have treated us fairly.”
The Kennedy Center canceled all performances through May 10, including Once on This Island and Soundtrack ’63. Washington National Opera’s Porgy and Bess will be rescheduled.
Trump said that the outlay to the Kennedy Center was a “lousy soundbite,” but “that’s the way life works.”
“With that being said, the Kennedy Center, they do a beautiful job, a wonderful job,” he said.
The bill reportedly also includes $75 million for the National Endowment for the Arts and $75 million for the National Endowment for the Humanities. The final text has not yet been released.
According to a recent version of the bill, the money for the Kennedy Center would be “to prevent, prepare for, and respond to coronavirus, domestically or internationally, including funding for deep cleaning and information technology to improve telework capability and for operations and maintenance requirements related to the consequences of coronavirus.”
On Tuesday, Fox News’ Dana Perino criticized the funding as the “new bridge to nowhere.” Some congressional Republicans also have been critical of the outlay.
But in a statement, the Kennedy Center said that they provide employment for 3,000 people and compensation for 1,000 artists, but that they are suffering a loss of ticket revenue.
“Our workforce includes artists, programmers, administrative and production staff, ushers, bartenders, food service employees, parking attendants, and many more, all of whom have been impacted or will soon be impacted by the closure of the Kennedy Center,” the organization said. “The ability to deliver on our mandated mission is at risk. As a result, federal relief funding is the only way we will be in a position to reopen the nation’s cultural center when our government officials tell us it is safe to do so.”
Subscribe to Deadline Breaking News Alerts and keep your inbox happy.