President Donald Trump’s meeting with rapper Kanye West showed a lack of gravitas on the part of the chief executive and his administration, a cable news pundit said Thursday.
The White House set up the meeting so that Trump could listen to West’s views on a number of issues such as prison reform and urban renewal. Nia-Malika Henderson, a senior political reporter for CNN and frequent on-air contributor, was not impressed.
“It also speaks to the lack of seriousness that the White House looks at African-American issues,” she said. “’Cause this was a meeting that was billed as about African-American issues, right? In the readout, it was supposed to be about criminal justice reform. It was supposed to be about opportunity zones, African-American employment, and revitalizing some of these communities.”
What was the problem with West — and retired NFL legend Jim Brown — talking about those issues? They lack college degrees in those subjects or experience in those fields. This disqualifies them, Henderson suggested.
“With that, you would think you would want policy experts, people who know about those issues,” she said. “But instead you’ve got Jim Brown, who’s basically silent in that whole display from Kanye West, and then Kanye West — who isn’t a policy expert in any of those things.”
“None of those celebrities are policy experts in the subjects they testified about. Instead, they lent star power to issues and causes they believe in.”
It is an odd complaint considering how often left-wing celebrities speak out on issues — and the mostly groveling reception they get in the media when they do.
In 2010, for example, comedian Stephen Colbert testified in front of the House Judiciary Committee. Not only that, but he did so in character, employing the persona from “The Colbert Report,” the Comedy Central show he had at the time.
Many Democrats loved it.
“Of course, I think it’s appropriate. He’s an American, right?” then-Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said at the time. “He comes before the committee, he has a point of view, he can bring attention to an important issue like immigration. I think it’s great.”
Other celebrities who have testified before Congress include singer Jewel, who spoke in 2008 about disconnected and disadvantaged youth; U2 front man Bono, who talked about AIDS programs and research in 2004; actor Michael J. Fox and boxer Muhammad Ali, who lobbied in 2002 for more research on Parkinson’s disease; and singer Elton John, who talked about AIDS in 2002.
Even non-human celebrities have gotten into the act. Elmo, of “Sesame Street” muppet fame, testified in 2002 before the House Education Appropriations Subcommittee about spending on music research and musical instruments for school.
None of those celebrities are policy experts in the subjects they testified about. Instead, they lent star power to issues and causes they believe in or spoke of their personal experiences with those topics.
All enjoyed a positive reception in Washington and friendly press coverage.
These are just a sampling of the stars who have appeared before Congress. It says nothing of the daily dose of wisdom dispensed by actors, athletes, and pop stars on a daily basis. It is rare for a Democratic candidate for major office to not have celebrity backers in tow on the campaign trail.
But West’s appearance in the Oval Office was “odd and really sad,” according to Henderson.
“It certainly doesn’t speak to the diversity and, sort of, broad experiences of 40 million black people, even though at times, he suggested he did there,” she said.