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Trump honors the arts and humanities, after a strained history


Notice: Transcripts are machine and human generated and lightly edited for accuracy. They may contain errors.

Judy Woodruff: For more than three decades, one of the highest honors in the world of arts and humanities have been national medals awarded by the president annually.

But those awards have not been given out since President Trump took office, until today.

Here now Jeffrey Brown with more on the winners.

Jeffrey Brown: Among the honorees in the room were bluegrass-country star Alison Krauss. Best known for her fiddle playing and ethereal voice, Krauss has been the winner of 27 Grammy Awards.

And actor Jon Voight, best known for "Midnight Cowboy" and his Oscar-winning performance in the 1978 film "Coming Home."

Jon Voight: Look, you don't want to kill anybody here. You have enough ghosts to carry around.

President Donald Trump: Jon captures the imagination of the audiences and dominates almost every single scene he's in. He's a special person.

Jeffrey Brown: Voight has been a longtime supporter of the president, and celebrated his arrival to Washington on the eve of the inauguration.

Since taking office, President Trump has had a strained relationship with the arts. For three years in a row, he proposed a budget seeking to eliminate both the National Endowments for the Arts and Humanities. In 2017, members of his White House Arts Panel resigned en masse, protesting Mr. Trump's response to the violence at a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.

And the president and first lady have skipped events like the Kennedy Center Honors, attended by every president since 1978.

Today, he had this to say:

President Donald Trump: Each of today's recipients has made outstanding contributions to American society, culture and life. They exemplify the genius, talent and creativity of our exceptional nation.

Jeffrey Brown: And among the honorees was one of our own, Sharon Percy Rockefeller, president of WETA, Washington, D.C.'s public television and radio station, and home to the "NewsHour."

She was recognized for her work and philanthropy in the arts.

President Donald Trump: Sharon Rockefeller has been a strong advocate for the arts and public broadcasting. She's currently chairman for the Board of Trustees for the National Gallery of Art, and has helped the institution acquire breathtaking works of beauty, some of the best anywhere in the world.

Jeffrey Brown: The final arts medal went to the musicians of the U.S. military.

Bestselling author James Patterson, a champion for literacy and books, was given a humanity medal. The others were chef Patrick O'Connell, Texas philanthropist Teresa Lozano Long, and the Claremont Institute, a conservative think tank.

For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Jeffrey Brown.

Judy Woodruff: And we're so proud of Sharon Rockefeller, who leads WETA, our producing station.

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