With most White House staffers on furlough and no one to prepare meals, President Trump improvised on Monday and treated the national champion Clemson University football team to a fast food feast in the White House.
Trump himself purchased the more than 400 hamburgers, as well as fish sandwiches, pizzas and salads, which he later tweeted attendees consumed in less than an hour.
Though no Clemson player, coach or official criticized the effort – the players enjoyed a rare break from the highly structured diets they live on as football players for much of the year – the media heaped criticism on the president for his hospitality.
“The resulting buffet, which included hamburgers, fries, salads and fish sandwiches from McDonald’s, Burger King and Wendy’s alongside Domino’s pizza, was a strange choice, particularly for an event held in the 140-seat State Dining Room, which traditionally hosts formal dinners for ambassadors and heads of state,” wrote Rebecca Jennings of Vox under the headline: “The controversy around Trump’s fast-food football feast, explained” – subhead: “People are calling Trump’s McDonald’s and Wendy’s meal for the Clemson Tigers racist and classist.”
“But it was also a choice that Trump and the White House blamed on the partial government shutdown, no the longest in US history. Like many other federal institutions, the White House kitchen is not currently operating, which is partly a result of Trump’s refusal to support a bill that doesn’t include funding for a $5 billion wall on the Mexican border.”
Trump has requested $5.7 billion in funding for enhanced border security, including construction of a wall in some places along the 1,200-mile border. In no way has he suggested $5 billion would build an entire wall.
Trump told reporters at the event he had personally bought 300 hamburgers, according to Vox. In a tweet the next morning, “that number had skyrocketed to ‘1,000 hamberders [sic],” Jennings wrote.
She, of course, labeled this a lie, although neither Jennings nor any other reporter who provided an account of the event knows how many hamburgers were purchased.
Philip Bump of the Washington Post attempted to calculate it in “President Trump’s extravagant, $3,000, 300-sandwich celebration of Clemson University,” but his story is so full of guesses as to which sandwiches were ordered and what kind of price breaks Trump may have received for purchasing so many at on time as to be virtually meaningless.
Jennings wrote that “some said this amounted to disrespect of the athletes” and pointed to a tweet by Nick Jack Pappas, whose Twitter bio says he was chosen for the NBC Late Night Writers Workshop, that read: “Hamberder (n) – Like a hamburger, but served by an idiot who believes college athletes don’t deserve respect.”
USA Today led its coverage with a piece on a former college football player whose acceptance of outside income during his career at USC led to him having to forfeit the Heisman Trophy, awarded to college football’s best player, and for his team to receive a two-year postseason ban and vacate its 2004 national championship.
“Former NFL running back and college star Reggie Bush called President Donald Trump’s gesture of serving the national champion Clemson Tigers fast food during their White House visit on Monday ‘disrespectful on so many levels’ and a ‘huge slap in the face,’ said the lead on the story by Scott Gleason.
It quoted Bush’s full tweet: “Just when you think you’ve seen it all. @ClemsonFB you guys deserve better you are world champs and this is the honor you receive from our nations leader? This is disrespectful on so many levels, just a huge slap in the face after that kind of performance! SMH.”
Jennings said Trump’s comments before the event that he “would think that’s their favorite food” in fact “rang as classist or racist. It’s not much of a leap to assume that Trump guessed that many Clemson Tigers are black or come from working-class backgrounds, and thus presumed they prefer heap, fatty foods over anything the White House would typically serve for guests in the State Dining Room.”
She did point out that, in fact, people eat more fast food as their income rises.