Jon Voight danced briefly on a makeshift stage in the East Room of the White House as the theme from Midnight Cowboy played and President Donald Trump prepared to award him the National Medal of Arts.
The jovial atmosphere was a contrast to what was taking place at the same time on Capitol Hill: Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, was giving his closing remarks in Thursday’s hearing as part of the impeachment inquiry.
Trump has labeled Schiff “shifty Schiff,” while Voight is one of the president’s highest profile Hollywood defenders. He’s blasted the Democrats on Twitter for pursuing the investigation.
At the ceremony, though, there was no mention of impeachment. Instead, Trump cited Voight’s Oscar and award nominations, as well as a list of credits that also include The Odessa File Deliverance, Coming Home, Pearl Harbor and Mission Impossible. Trump called The Champ the “very best boxing movie of all time,” and said that he found it difficult not to cry through it.
“I love having you here, especially since you are someone I really like,” Trump said. Voight’s son James Haven was there, but his daughter Angelina Jolie was not spotted.
Also being honored was musician Alison Krauss, philanthropist Sharon Percy Rockefeller, who is the CEO of WETA-TV, and the musicians of the United States Military. Trump also honored the Claremont Institute, philanthropist Teresa Lozano Long, chef Patrick J. O’Connell and author James Patterson with the National Humanities Medal.
This was the first National Medal of Arts and Humanities Medal ceremony since 2016. Trump has skipped the past few years. His administration has proposed zeroing out funding for the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities for each of the last three years. Those proposals have gone nowhere in Congress.
The Atlantic reported earlier this week that Trump selected the honorees and ignored the recommendations of the National Council of the Arts, as has been a past practice. Some members expressed concerns that there was a lack of diversity and that partisan considerations went into the selections.
A bit of trivia: This may have been the first time that the Midnight Cowboy theme has been heard in the White House since Jimmy Carter screened the movie there in 1977. It was the first X-rated movie to screen at the White House (that we know of), albeit the movie got that designation from the MPAA before it was ceded to the adult film industry.
Voight later accompanied Trump and First Lady Melania Trump to Dover Air Force base to dignified transfer to honor the return of the remains of soldiers who were killed in a helicopter crash this week in Afghanistan.