Written by Daniel Victor
As is tradition, President Donald Trump hosted the champions of college football, the Clemson Tigers, for a celebration of their athletic achievement at the White House on Monday.
The food he offered them was far less traditional.
Piles of burgers and fish sandwiches from McDonald’s, Wendy’s and Burger King, still in their boxes and wrappers, were served on trays in the candlelit dining room. Tubs of dipping sauces were stacked in silver gravy boats. On another table, heat lamps kept french fries and Domino’s pizzas warm. Salads were available, too.
It was an opulent setting for fast-food fare. Visiting players are typically offered a meal from the White House kitchen, but Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Trump’s press secretary, said the government shutdown necessitated a new menu.
“Because the Democrats refuse to negotiate on border security, much of the residence staff at the White House is furloughed — so the president is personally paying for the event to be catered with some of everyone’s favorite fast foods,” she said.
The substitution didn’t seem to bother Trump, and perhaps even delighted him.
“I like it all,” he told reporters before the players arrived. “It’s all good stuff. Great American food.”
Trump has long professed a love for fast food. He values its efficiency and consistency, and as a self-professed “germaphobe,” he has said uniform health standards make him more confident in its cleanliness. He used to eat it several times per week.
He’s far from alone in loving fast food. About one-third of U.S. adults eat fast food on any given day, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Still, the sight of the fast-food cartons inside the stately White House dining room struck some observers on social media as incongruous — or lacking in hospitality for a celebration. (No players looked particularly dissatisfied as cameras rolled.)
It also promoted cuisine that nutritionists warn is high in calories, fat and sodium, and that increases the risk of cardiovascular and other diseases.
Such events, ostensibly a tribute to championship teams, are unavoidably political. Trump abruptly disinvited the NFL champion Philadelphia Eagles last year after most of the players and coaches said they would boycott the visit. The Golden State Warriors declined to visit after winning the NBA championship last year.
With reporters gathered before the players arrived, on a day he stayed inside the White House, Trump was eager to drive the discussion back to the weekslong government shutdown. After showing off the food spread, he pivoted to making his case for Republican unity and the need for the border wall.
“It should have happened 30 years ago, 20 years ago, 10 years ago, and it’s going to happen now, it’s going to happen now,” he said.
Without missing a beat, he continued: “Thank you very much, everybody. Enjoy your food.”