Donald Trump laid on hundreds of burgers amid a feast of fast food for Clemson University’s football team at the White House on Monday evening.
Amid a government shutdown now in its 25th day – the longest in history – many presidential staff remain furloughed, forcing Mr Trump to set the menu for the visit of the Clemson Tigers, who won the national championship last year.
Mr Trump, a fast food lover, said he even paid for their meal himself. He did not disclose the tab.
“We ordered American fast food, paid for by me. Lots of hamburgers, lots of pizza,” Mr Trump said after returning to the White House from a trip to New Orleans. “We have some very large people that like eating, so I think we’re going to have a little fun.”
An impressive – and highly unusual – White House smorgasbord greeted the players. Silver trays held stacks of wrapped burgers from Wendy’s. Also on offer were boxed burgers from McDonald’s, including Big Macs.
White House cups bearing the presidential seal held the fries, served on candlelit dining tables.
Pizzas, some topped with olives and tomatoes, were also on the menu. Silver bowls held the condiments, and stacks of white plates sat nearby. Several young men were spotted eating multiple burgers at the standup tables dotting the East Room.
Asked what his favourite food on display was, Mr Trump, stood in front of an 1869 portrait of Abraham Lincoln, told reporters: “I like it all, it’s all good stuff. Great American food … I like em all, if it’s American I like, it’s all American stuff, but it’s good stuff.”
He continued: “But I’ll bet you as much food as we have – we have pizzas, we have 300 hamburgers, many many french fries, all of our favourite foods – I wanna see what’s here when we leave, because I don’t think it’s gonna be much.”
After showing off the food in front of the press, Mr Trump addressed Clemson’s football team from a stage in the East Room, immediately praising one of its players.
“I wanna be the agent of that tall, handsome quarterback,” Mr Trump said to laughs from the audience. “Six foot seven, they say great athlete, and he’s accurate. That’s nice, great job.”
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Mr Trump later praised himself for selecting the menu, and upped the number of burgers he claimed to have provided from 300 to 1,000.
“I had a choice – do we have no food for you or do we give you some little quick salads that the first lady will make along with … the second lady,” Mr Trump said, according to Yahoo News.
“I said you guys aren’t into salads. Or, do I … go out and send out for about 1,000 hamburgers. So that’s what we did.”
The Clemson team’s visit is its second since Mr Trump took office. The Tigers last visited in June 2017 after their championship run the previous season.
Clemson coach Dabo Swinney has nominated this season’s undefeated Tigers as the best college team ever. Mr Trump called them a “great team, an unbelievable team”.
Mr Trump has routinely sparred with professional athletes during his two years in office. College football has managed to avoid such political controversies, with last year’s champion Alabama also visiting the White House.
Additional reporting by AP