WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump hosted rapper Kanye West and former professional football player Jim Brown in a wide-ranging Oval Office meeting Thursday in which West boisterously reiterated his support for the president.
The meeting was initially billed as a discussion about manufacturing, prison reform and the unemployment rate for African Americans.
But West, 41, sitting across from the president’s desk, gave a meandering soliloquy that included profanities. He touched on topics such as incarceration, education, mental health, racism and his endorsement deal with Addidas.
On the issue of prison reform, for instance, West told Trump: “We have to release the love throughout the entire country and give opportunities.”
He also expounded on his parents’ separation and a lack of male influence in his life.
“This hat gives me power in a way,” West said of the red Make American Great Again cap he was wearing.
Trump, who called West “a smart cookie” after listening to his oration said: “I tell you what that was pretty impressive . . . . That was quite something.”
West replied, “It was from the soul. I just channeled it.”
Brown, 82, sat silently beside West. Jared Kushner, Trump’s senior adviser and son-in-law, looked on without speaking as well.
No formal policies or bills were discussed. Trump said he had invited West and Brown to the White House because he liked what they did and “they like me.”
West has been a vocal Trump supporter since the 2016 election and has taken frequently to Twitter to express his political views. Trump and West have met in Trump Tower and, two weeks ago, West gave an unscripted pro-Trump speech on NBC’s “Saturday Night Live.”
In May, West’s wife, Kim Kardashian West, 37, discussed prison reform with the president in the Oval Office.
At the time, Kardashian West, a reality television star and entrepreneur, asked Trump to pardon Alice Marie Johnson, a low-level drug offender who had served 20 years of a life sentence in prison. Trump, a Republican, granted Johnson clemency a week after Kardashian West’s visit.
With less than a month before congressional midterm elections, and Trump campaigning aggressively at rallies across the country, it was unclear whether bringing a celebrity such as West to the White House would help at the polls.
“Sometimes we overestimate the power these kinds of endorsements — if that’s what we call them — have,” said Robert Thompson, professor of pop culture at Syracuse University.
“It’s more likely to make people on the other side angry than energizing the base,” said Thompson.
Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.), in an appearance on CNN shortly after West’s White House visit, criticized the president for hosting such a meeting while the country was dealing with Hurricane Michael in the Florida Panhandle.
“I would suggest that the president curtail these kinds of visits,” Speier said.