Honorees of the National Medal of the Arts and Humanities were announced yesterday, marking the first time President Donald Trump has given the awards for both fields since he assumed office. The eight winners, beginning with arts honorees, are: bluegrass singer Alison Krauss, actor Jon Voight, writer James Patterson, the United States Military’s musicians, philanthropist Teresa Lozano Long, former president and CEO of Washington’s public broadcasting station Sharon Percy Rockefeller, chef Patrick O’Connell, and the conservative Claremont Institute think tank. In the past, presidents have named a dozen annual awardees for each medal.

In his ceremonial remarks, the president emphasized his friendships and personal relationships with a number of the awardees, including Patterson and Voight. In his statements about Rockefeller, he said: “Maybe I’ll start getting good publicity [from shows like] PBS NewsHour . . . They tend to be on the other side of things, a little bit. I think now I have a better chance.”

Traditionally, the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and the National Council on the Arts have nominated recipients for the National Medal of the Arts, which have been bestowed since the 1980s. A National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) spokesperson told the New York Times that the process this year abided by federal regulations but would not specify whether the president selected the winners from a list of recommendations made by the agency.

Trump has tried to eliminate the NEH and the NEA since taking office in 2016. His administration’s 2020 budget proposal, unveiled in March, outlined $29 million for the NEA and $38 million for NEH—a drastic cut from the $155 million allotted by Congress for 2019—to allow for the “orderly termination of all operation over two years.” The president signed a temporary spending bill—known as a continuing resolution—yesterday to avoid a government shutdown and to continue funding federal agencies.


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