First lady Jill Biden imposed a strict “no dancing” rule on her husband after dragging President Biden up on stage during a Lunar New Year celebration at the White House Thursday night.
The first couple had just finished watching a performance of a traditional Chinese lion dance from the front row in the East Room, when Jill took on the role of the MC and led her husband by the hand onstage.
“Are we going to dance?” the 80-year-old commander-in-chief joked as he mounted a short flight of stairs.
“No, you’re not going to dance, believe me,” Jill replied through laughter. “We don’t want to ruin the evening.”
Dr. Biden, looking festive in an eye-catching bright-red dress for the occasion, joked with the crowd about nearly grabbing a tangerine used as a prop during the dance performance, drawing laughter from the attendees,
She then praised the Choy Wun Lion Dance Troupe for its “amazing” display.
The first lady invited the guests to a reception — and adroitly ran interference for her husband as he was pelted with questions from reporters about the classified documents that were found at his home.
Later, the president delivered remarks honoring the 11 people who were killed in a mass shooting event in Monterey Park, Calif., less than a week ago, and the seven who were murdered in Half Moon Bay, Calif., on Monday.
“It’s a time of renewal and reflection, hope and possibilities — for good over evil, for sharing meals, for celebrating fires — no firecrackers tonight!” Biden said in an apparently unscripted moment.
“Fire — no, I’m serious. I was thinking about that, you know. If things hadn’t been like they’d been the past couple years, we should have fireworks outside,” he added.
Biden’s audience, largely made up of Asian Americans, greeted his comments with chuckles and did not appear offended by them, although many social media critics slammed the firecrackers quip as inappropriate given its timing.
Other moments of levity during the event included Biden calling himself a “very temporary” resident of the White House — and bringing up his pet cat, Willow, after noting that it was the Year of the Cat in Vietnamese culture.
“Willow may walk in here any time now. She has no limits,” he said. “You think I’m kidding, I’m not. Especially in the middle of the night when she climbs up and lays on top of my head.”
Turning to the tragic events of the past week, Biden shared that he asked Rep. Judy Chu, a Democrat from California whose district includes Monterey Park, whether he should visit the dance hall where Saturday’s massacre took place and cancel the White House festivities.
“I spoke with Judy several days ago. I said, ‘Judy what should I do? Should I continue — should I be in California or should I still have this celebration?’” the president said. “And she felt very strongly. She said we have to move forward. Her message was don’t give into fear and sorrow. Don’t do that. Stand in solidarity and the spirit of toughness. That’s what this holiday is all about.”
Biden also bragged that this year the White House was hosting the “first Lunar New Year reception of this scale.”
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