As musicians in the East Room played strains of “Midnight Cowboy,” Voight, who starred in the Academy award-winning 1969 film, rose from his seat, dancing and sliding across the makeshift stage. Trump grinned and clapped, giving a positive shake of the fist as Voight reclaimed his seat.
“Midnight Cowboy,” a tale of the friendship between a Texas dishwasher turned-NYC prostitute (Voight) and a hustler (Dustin Hoffman), remains the only X-rated film to win an Academy Award for best picture. Once reviled by conservative critics for its graphic depictions of sex and brutality, the movie became a critical and box office success, and was later reclassified with a R rating. Voight won best actor for his role.
“I love having you here, especially since you are someone I really like,” Trump said, cheering the actor’s performances in films from “Mission: Impossible” to “The Champ” – the latter of which he called one of the best boxing movies in history.
The largely lighthearted ceremony, which Melania Trump also attended, was held as the impeachment hearings churned on across town.
The “Ray Donovan” star has been a vocal supporter of President Trump, in August calling him “the greatest president of this century.” Voight currently sits on the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts’ board of trustees after being appointed by Trump in March.
Voight later accompanied Trump to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware to pay tribute to the remains of two U.S. service members who were killed in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan this week.
Honorees Thursday included musician Alison Krauss, novelist James Patterson and musicians of the United States military.
Trump described Patterson as “another friend” and joked about his book sales being among the highest of all time. “You’ve sold a lot more books than me,” Trump said, according to The Hill. “The Bible has you by a little bit.”
Thursday’s ceremony marked the first time during his nearly three-year-old presidency that Trump has awarded the National Medal of Arts and the National Humanities Medal.
Trump has had an uneasy if not hostile relationship with many in the arts and the humanities who have denounced his presidency and his administration’s policies.
He has been largely shunned by Hollywood and has skipped events like the annual Kennedy Center gala, one of Washington’s premier social gatherings, after some honorees said they would not attend if Trump were part of the ceremony.
Contributing: The Associated Press