Music » Music Stories & Interviews

WikiLeaks and Ariana Grande: How a Donut Cost Her a White House Performance


Last week, WikiLeaks dropped 20,000 pages of emails from the Democratic National Committee, stirring controversy on the eve of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia. Among the bizarre, more anodyne stories from the leak was the revelation that post-Nickelodeon pop star Ariana Grande was denied an opportunity to perform at the White House in September of 2015.

To some, the email chain might be intensely boring, a non-scandal in an election year flooded with drama and impropriety. But for music and bureaucracy nerds, it’s a gold mine of entertainment, revealing just how seriously the White House takes each event-planning decision. Also, one can imagine a fuming Julian Assange, upset that this newsbyte is taking away some attention from more serious concerns, like the political infighting that cost DNC head Debbie Wasserman Schultz her job.

In an email correspondence between DNC staffers Kevin Snowden and Zach Allen and White House employee Bobby Schmuck, Grande was turned down for a White House gig because of a July 2015 scandal when she “lick[ed] other peoples’ donuts” and said "I hate America” in a donut shop in Lake Elsinore, California.

In the vetting process, the White House looked into her political contributions, history of bankruptcy, criminal record and lobbyist status — all coming up clear. But the clear record was all for naught, as the donut-licking was enough to flag her as a no-go for the gala performance. After Snowden explained the donut issue in a 1100-word rundown, Bobby Schmuck — and what a name for a White House employee — responded with a definitive “Nope, sorry.”

In the past year, Schmuck’s disapproval didn’t affect Grande’s chart success. Though she wasn’t allowed to play Pennsylvania Avenue, her third album Dangerous Woman debuted at number two on the Billboard chart, with shrugs of approval from the critical community. 

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