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Lawmakers and Hollywood clash at White House state dinner for Kenyan President William Ruto

Lawmakers and Hollywood clash at White House state dinner for Kenyan President William Ruto


Worlds collided at the White House when everyone – from former President Clinton and Hillary Clinton to actor Sean Penn, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and “Reading Rainbow's” LeVar Burton – arrived for the State Dinner for Kenya.

The Clintons smiled and held hands as they posed for photos at Thursday's black-tie affair, the Biden administration's sixth state dinner, held in honor of Kenyan President William Ruto.

When asked what the best thing about returning to the White House was, the 42nd president smiled and exclaimed to ITK, “I love the girl behind you!” The former commander in chief showed a portrait of his wife dating from 2003, hanging in the booksellers' room of the White House. He expressed a similar sentiment last month at the Japanese state dinner when he saw the portrait of the former secretary of state.

Brad Paisley, one of the evening's performers with the Howard Gospel Choir, said he would kick off his performance with his 2009 hit, “American Saturday Night.”

“But then all bets are off,” he joked as he stood alongside his wife, Kimberly Williams-Paisley. “We’ll see how it goes.”

Brad and Kimberly Williams Paisley arrive in the Booksellers Area of ​​the White House for the State Dinner hosted by President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden for President of Kenya William Ruto and First Lady of Kenya Rachel Ruto, the Thursday May 23, 2024, in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

ITK asked Burton, who hosted the classic children's show “Reading Rainbow” from 1983 to 2006, what word of the day would describe the current political climate.

“Just one? Can I swear? Burton, 67, broke down.

When he was told it was a free country, he replied, “Yes, but I'm the guy from 'Reading Rainbow.'

“It’s full of possibilities,” he said, adding, “That’s three words.”

LeVar Burton and Stephanie Cozart Burton arrive in the Booksellers Area of ​​the White House for the State Dinner hosted by President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden for President of Kenya William Ruto and First Lady of Kenya Rachel Ruto, on Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

Other high-profile figures weren't as talkative — Goodell declined to answer any questions, including his reaction to Kansas City Chiefs player Harrison Butker's controversial commencement speech. Academy Award winner Penn, Vice President Harris and actor Wilmer Valderrama also posed for photos without answering questions from members of the press.

Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) brought his mother to the swanky event, describing her as the “greatest woman in the world.” The New Jersey Democrat also gave his mother a brief lesson on how to pose for photographers in front of a step-and-repeat, joking: “This is where we show them how sexy we are. “

President Joe Biden delivers a toast during a state dinner with Kenyan President William Ruto at the White House, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Other notable attendees at the event, which marked the first state dinner at the White House for an African nation since 2008, included: Huma Abedin, Naomi Biden and Peter Neal, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, singer by “American Pie” Don McLean, Transportation. Secretaries Pete Buttigieg and Chasten Buttigieg, Senators Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Chris Coons (D-Del.) and Raphael Warnock (D-Georgia), Melinda French Gates, Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland, “ NBC Nightly News » Anchor Lester Holt, House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.), White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, Reps. Michael McCaul (R-Texas), Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.), Richard Neal (D-Mass.), Joe Neguse (D-Colorado), Ilhan Omar (D-Minnesota), Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) and John Garamendi (D-Calif.), Secretary to Commerce Gina Raimondo, Sheryl Sandberg, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver and Al Sharpton.

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