WASHINGTON — These are strange times to live in our nation’s capital for reasons obvious and subtle. The most obvious is this: The District’s most powerful resident, President Donald Trump, is also perhaps its most hated. D.C. is a liberal enclave, and Trump’s place at the center of it — physically and metaphorically — is a disorienting fact of life: the leader of the free world sequestered away in his guarded palace, surrounded on all sides by people who most likely didn’t vote for him and don’t support his presidency. Judging by Trump’s rare appearances out on the town and his “swamp” moniker, the feeling seems to be mutual.
The latest illustration of this town-and-clown tension came on Friday when the Washington Nationals announced José Andrés, the chef and restauranteur known for his humanitarian work in hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico, would throw out the ceremonial first pitch at Game 5 of the World Series between the Nationals and the Houston Astros (that is, if the series lasts that long).
Trump had previously said he planned to attend Game 5, and there was speculation (never confirmed) that he might get the first-pitch honors. Trump later ruled out that possibility, saying he would look too hefty in the Kevlar vest he’d be required to wear onto the field. “They’re going to have to dress me up in a lot of heavy armor,” he said on Thursday. “I’ll look too heavy. I don’t like that.” Just Trump’s presence at Nats Park for the World Series would surely be a spectacle. President George W. Bush threw out the ceremonial first pitch at the inaugural game at Nats Park in 2005 to cheers despite his mediocre standing among the District’s residents. But Trump’s appearance is sure to lead to boos and jeering directed at a president who took just 4 percent of the vote in D.C. in 2016.
Picking Andrés, however, is likely to sting the president just as much as a photo of chubby Trump winding up on the pitcher’s mound. The two men have a history, and it isn’t pretty.
A Jose Andrés restaurant was originally intended to anchor Trump’s gleaming new Washington hotel located down the street from the White House. But after Trump entered the presidential race in June 2015, raging against “rapists” and drug dealers and violent criminals flowing across the U.S. border from Mexico, Andrés pulled out of the deal and refused to do business with Trump. (Another celebrity chef, Geoffrey Zakarian, also backed out of plans to open a restaurant in the Trump Washington Hotel.) The Trump Organization responded by suing Andrés for $10 million for breach of contract, Andrés countersued, and an ugly legal battle ensued. The two sides eventually settled in April 2017 for undisclosed terms.
But the animosity wasn’t finished. Andrés told the Super Bowl-winning Philadelphia Eagles they could eat for free at one of his D.C. restaurants after Trump disinvited the team from a White House ceremony celebrating their title.
People of Philadelphia! @Eagles if you are in @washingtondc stop by @AmericaEatsTvrn in Georgetown! The way to celebrate America is loving each other. And not creating non existent fights. If you came to WH celebration stop at the bar tell the bartender, and food is on me! #USA https://t.co/spDUdqQHUN
— José Andrés (@chefjoseandres) June 5, 2018
Andrés also criticized the Trump administration for its anemic and antagonist response to Puerto Rico’s please for help recovering from the devastation caused by Hurricane Maria. The chef had traveled to the island and mobilized thousands of volunteers to deliver millions of free meals to Puerto Ricans reeling from the disaster and still without power or water.
We are feeding the National Guard because they need hot meals and proud of it but Federal Goverment will not help us………? pic.twitter.com/1CJGlRMM2W
— José Andrés (@chefjoseandres) October 13, 2017
Andrés tweeted Friday that he was “humbled” by the Nationals’ invitation to throw out Game 5’s first pitch. But like a true Washingtonian, he said he hoped the Nats — who have won both games so far — would have completed the sweep by then.