President Trump attended Saturday night’s fund-raising ball for the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, which was held at Mar-a-Lago, his Florida home and so-called winter White House.
Although the Harvard-affiliated Boston hospital has held the posh annual event at the private club since 2011, and once in 2008, this year’s gala drew criticism from Dana-Farber’s staff and Harvard medical students, who saw Trump’s actions, especially his executive order on immigration, as in direct conflict with the hospital’s mission.
Dana-Farber declined to cancel, saying it was too late to change plans, but said it would avoid “controversial venues” in the future.
Trump was among last night’s celebrity attendees; former Canadian prime minister Brian Mulroney showed up, and German tennis player Tommy Haas also made an appearance, according to his verified Twitter account.
Dana-Farber staff were also in attendance; a photograph in the Palm Beach Daily News shows Dr. Stephen Sallan, chief of staff emeritus, as well as Steven Singer, senior vice president for communications.
Guests dined on herb-marinated sliced filet of beef coated in a mushroom Madeira glaze, according to a menu provided by an attendee.
The president arrived at the club’s ballroom just after a performance by Canadian musician David Foster had begun; hundreds stood applauding, according to videos posted on social media by multiple attendees.
“Well, either I have the best timing in the world, or the worst timing in the world,” Foster quipped after the applause died down. He continued with his performance: “In spite of the 100 armed men that are now in the room, we’re going to try to have some fun.”
At one point during Foster’s performance, he invited Mulroney onstage to sing a few lines from “When Irish Eyes Are Smiling.”
“Mr. President, I hope this doesn’t fracture Canadian-US relations,” Mulroney said by way of introduction.
After dinner, guests decamped to the pool, where they enjoyed an ”extravagant ice cream sundae bar” and espresso drinks, according to the menu.
About 500 people attended the event, which raised $2.2 million. Dana-Farber president and CEO Dr. Laurie Glimcher expressed her appreciation in a letter printed in the evening’s program. “Thank you for your generosity, which is benefiting patients in Palm Beach, New England, and all around the world,” she wrote.
Colleen Farrell, a fourth-year Harvard Medical School student and one of the organizers of the protests, said that Trump’s appearance at Saturday’s party proves the point that she and the hundreds of other students and doctors who advocated for Dana-Farber to relocate the fund-raiser were trying to make: “You can’t say you’re staying out of politics while simultaneously holding your fund-raiser at Mar-a-Lago.”
Farrell said she is worried that Trump’s presence might give the impression that he is doing something positive for the world of cancer research, but that unless he adopts policies to that effect, it’s “really just another TV farce.”
Dana-Farber declined to allow a STAT reporter to attend the event, and did not respond to requests for comment on Sunday.