When the Clemson football players entered the White House’s opulent State Dining Room during their visit with President Trump on Monday, they were greeted by a sight many had likely never laid eyes on before.
In the center of the historic room that has hosted royalty, foreign dignitaries and celebrities, a long mahogany table gleamed under the glow of an enormous golden chandelier. A pair of ornate candelabras holding tapered white candles sat on the table amid numerous silver serving platters piled high with what Trump described as “Great American food.”
Boxes of McDonald’s Quarter Pounders, Big Macs and Filet-O-Fish sandwiches were stacked in neat rows next to pyramids of packaged salads. The Wendy’s girl and her wholesome grin decorated mounds of wraps. Silver gravy boats overflowed with packets of dipping sauce for Chicken McNuggets. On a separate table, Domino’s pizzas and french fries repackaged in cups bearing the presidential seal basked under what appeared to be heat lamps.
“I thought it was a joke,” one Clemson player could be overheard saying in a video shared on Twitter, accurately capturing many people’s reaction to the president’s earlier promise to serve college football’s national champions items found on various dollar menus. Only the meal was very real, and late-night hosts and the Internet had a lot to say about it.
“Of all the crazy things Trump said and did over the weekend, this might be the craziest,” Jimmy Kimmel said on his ABC show Monday night, playing a clip of the president telling reporters how he planned to feed the Clemson Tigers.
“I think we are going to serve McDonald’s, Wendy’s and Burger King’s with some pizza. I really mean it,” Trump said outside the White House earlier in the day. “It will be interesting. I would think that’s their favorite food."
Kimmel didn’t even try to contain his laughter.
“What would possibly make you think that?” he asked incredulously. “I’ll tell you what made him think that. ... He’s paying the check, so he had to get the cheapest food they could find.” (White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said the president would be footing the bill because the ongoing partial government shutdown meant those who may have handled the event’s catering were furloughed, The Washington Post’s Josh Dawsey reported.)
The host continued, quipping, “And you know he’s taking whatever they don’t eat back to his bedroom. He’ll be like the rat in ‘Charlotte’s Web’ tonight rolling around in Quarter Pounders with cheese.”
Meanwhile, Stephen Colbert and Seth Meyers mocked the president for hosting a meal that appeared to cater less to the tastes of his guests and more to his own well-documented preferences.
“Mr. President,” Colbert said, his face contorting into an uncomfortable grimace, “is it possible you’re just projecting your favorite foods onto them?”
He then slipped into his well-practiced Trump impersonation to describe an alternate version of Monday’s White House visit.
“We’re going to eat all of their favorite foods — burgers, KFC, taco bowls, two scoops of ice cream,” Colbert said in his Trump voice. “We’re going to watch their favorite movie, the 2016 election results. Then, I will spank them all with a rolled-up Forbes. I hear they’re really into that.”
On NBC, Meyers was equally quick to call out the president.
“He thinks he’s being so sly, ‘Normally, I would have a salad for dinner on Monday, but they told me they only eat every fast food!’ ” the host said, impersonating Trump.
Many felt the bizarre scene in the State Dining Room could have easily been plucked from a film or TV show in which a child is in charge.
For several people, the pictures of Trump’s offerings were familiar.
Critics also pointed out that elite college athletes most likely weren’t supposed to be gorging themselves on burgers and fries, and wondered why the president didn’t have his hotel — located just minutes from the White House — provide catering.
“Our nutritionist must be having a fit,” one Clemson player was reportedly overheard saying.
Some conservatives, however, slammed criticisms of Trump’s move as “elitist,” arguing that “real Americans” often eat, and enjoy, fast food. Others, such as FiveThirtyEight’s Nate Silver, asserted that the meal was an appropriate choice for a group of college students.
To Trump’s credit, it appeared his guests enjoyed their cheat day as there was reportedly “not much” food left over, according to The Post.
“I mean you’re not just gonna NOT eat the Big Macs stacked in a pile right?” tweeted Clemson offensive lineman Matt Bockhorst, who had been caught on camera smiling impishly as he loaded his plate with two Big Macs, which keen social media users quickly turned into a meme.
And for Bockhorst, the feasting didn’t end at the White House.
“Pocketed two chicken wraps and a quarter pounder,” he wrote in another tweet.