Vice President Joe Biden may have opted out of the 2016 president race, but he will make his presence felt in a far more glamorous competition.
According to the White House, Biden has been tapped to introduce pop star Lady Gaga’s performance of the Best Song nominee “Til It Happens To You” at the Academy Awards on Sunday. The song, which is featured in the poignant and powerful documentary about the campus rape phenomenon, “The Hunting Ground.” is widely expected to be the victor in its category, according to Oscar prognosticators.
“As a longtime advocate against sexual assault and domestic violence and the author of the Violence Against Women Act, the VP will use the opportunity to call on everyone in the audience and watching at home to visit www.ItsOnUs.org to take the pledge to stand up, speak out and help change the culture around sexual assault,” a spokesperson for the vice president told MSNBC on Thursday.
“The Hunting Ground” has been a source of considerable controversy, because it takes specific schools to task and reiterates allegations of sexual assault made against current NFL quarterback Jameis Winston.
Both Biden and the Obama administration have been longtime advocates for victims of sexual abuse, with the vice president famously leading the fight for passage of the Violence Against Women Act in 1990 when he was a U.S. senator.
Biden’s appearance will not mark the first time that a famous face from the Obama administration was featured in the highly-rated telecast. In 2013, first lady Michelle Obama remotely announced that year’s Best Picture winner, “Argo”, from the White House alongside members of the armed forces. Although Mrs. Obama’s appearance was well-received by the largely progressive audience in attendance, some conservative critics lashed out at her participation in Hollywood’s most prestigious event.
“It is not enough that President Obama pops up at every sporting event in the nation. Now the first lady feels entitled, with military personnel as props, to intrude on other forms of entertaining (this time for the benefit of the Hollywood glitterati who so lavishly paid for her husband’s election),” conservative columnist Jennifer Rubin wrote for the Washington Post at the time.
“Tonight was supposed to be about Hollywood — but Mrs. Obama made it about herself,” added Todd Starnes of Fox News. And Fox host Bill O’Reilly called her appearance “Hollywood left boosterism,” and argued that “Laura Bush would never at any time have introduced any award.”
Obama’s critics conveniently overlooked the fact that Laura Bush appeared in a taped segment for the 2002 awards. President Ronald Reagan also appeared on the Oscars just a year before he was sworn into office. And President Franklin D. Roosevelt kicked off the 13th Academy Awards with a radio address in 1941.
The first lady later said it was “absolutely not surprising” that her cameo on the Oscars sparked controversy. ”Shoot, my bangs set off a national conversation. My shoes can set off a national conversation. That’s just sort of where we are. We’ve got a lot of talking going on,” she told reporters in Chicago after the awards. “It’s like everybody’s kitchen-table conversation is now accessible to everybody else so there’s a national conversation about anything.”
“I just don’t think about that stuff,” she added.
Meanwhile, Biden was recently spotted on another red carpet. He attended the premiere of Tina Fey’s new film, “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot” on Tuesday.