(CNN) – It seemed like White House Press Secretary Jay Carney was waiting for the question when he was asked Thursday about Jay-Z's newest rap, which focuses on his U.S. government-approved trip to Cuba with wife Beyonce last week.
In the rap, Jay-Z suggested their clearance came from the White House, when it actually came from the Treasury Department.
"I turned Havana into Atlanta… Boy from the 'hood, I got White House clearance. ..Obama said 'chill you gonna get me impeached.' (But) you don't need this – expletive – anyway. Chill with me on the beach," the lyrics stated.
In one of the most bizarre exchanges in the White House press briefing room, a reporter read the lyrics to Carney, asking about the White House approval. And Carney, without missing a beat, hit back.
"I guess nothing rhymes with Treasury," he said.
Treasury Secretary Jack Lew was nominated by President Barack Obama earlier year and subsequently confirmed by the Senate.
(Actually, secretary kind of rhymes with treasury.)
Pressed further on whether the president had a conversation with Jay-Z, Carney shot down the speculation.
"I am absolutely saying that the White House and the president on down had nothing to do with anybody's personal, anybody's travel to Cuba," he said. "That is something the Treasury handles."
Due to the U.S. government's travel embargo with Cuba, Americans are prohibited from visiting the communist country for tourism. U.S. citizens can apply for licenses to go anyway, provided they show substantial proof they intend to visit for specific reasons, such as for business or education. And they must also provide a detailed itinerary.
After two members of Congress called for an investigation of the power couple's controversial trip and explanation of the type of travel license issued, the Treasury Department responded in a letter, giving more details about the licenses.
"It is our understanding that the travelers in question traveled to Cuba pursuant to an educational exchange trip organized by a group authorized by OFAC [the Office of Foreign Assets Control] to sponsor and organize programs to promote people-to-people contact in Cuba," the letter read.
– CNN's Ashley Killough, Kevin Liptak and Erin McPike contributed to this report.
Why does anyone care where this couple goes ofor vacation?
Really. I don't care for or listen to music from Jay-Z or his wife, but this is beyond ridiculous. Anyone and I do mean anyone ISO the president can come to expect this kind of treatment. This is nothing more than a mean and malicious attack on a wealthy (black) couple, who have enough money and infuence to fight back at the racists in the TP/republican party and they don't like it. The thing that scares these bigots is the fact Jay-Z and Beyonce, unlike Herman Cain, Ben Carson and Alan West, won't insult and put down their people just to be accepted by a few ignorant white people and for that, I say bravo!
Nobody cares. This is about the Treasury giving out licenses for bogus reasons, either because the Treasury is lied to and doesn't actually check the reasons, or they just don't care either. If that's the case, then America's tourism embargo has no teeth at all.
The rich get preferential treatment. Now this is news.
@Woman in California –
What kind of ridiculous nonsense are you babbling about? This has nothing particular to do with racism or black people at all. Stop letting your own hatred of, I don't know, normal people I guess, cloud your judgment. This has to do with rich celebrities vacationing in a country whose government is a sworn enemy of ours because they're rich and famous and think the rules don't apply to them like they do to average schmucks. JayZ and Beyonce were clearly there for tourism and vacation only, as they state above, yet an American citizen needs a purpose other than tourism to be permitted to travel to Cuba, which is also specifically stated above. You and I would never have received permission to go there for our own vacations or anniversaries, but wealthy 1%'ers like these two get government rubber stamps with no problem. THAT is the problem, not some imaginary racist motivation you dreamed up so you could go on a political rant online.
While I don't agree with the amount of publicity it has received, the law is the law. If he was allowed to go by the treasury department then leave it alone. It would be a different scenario if he went without approval – but thats not the case. I don't agree with this being an attack of a political nature I see it more as "he said the president could go" when that wasn't the case. Either way its inflated for no reason at all.
Like it says in the song.....why can we buy all the crap from China and visit China (a Communist Country) and we can't from Cuba? Oh wait, because Cuba has nothing to offer but tourism. Got it.
To put Ben Carson in the same sentence with Jay-Z is absolutely ridiculous. One individual saves lives, the other raps about sex and murder. Stop beating the same racist drum about blacks with influence. I would love to hear an intelligent black speaker such as Dr. Carson discuss his opinions on the state of affairs in the US. Bravo to the fact that he took Obama to task at the luncheon and broke the racial barrier. An intelligent, educated black doctor who is not afraid to talk the talk and doesn't buy into the racial pretense. The fact that you would even compare him to Jay-Z or even mention Herman Cain just proves the fact of a proven bias of blacks towards democrats. You are also neglect in your thinking by associating all republicans with teapartiers. How can you say that this is a mean and malicious attack against a powerful black couple? You do realize there is a travel ban to communist countries don't you? But why in the world would Jay and Beyonce want to travel there in the first place. They must be looking to become the new Sean Penn.
Laws for thee, but not for me.
As President Obama has said, the purpose of politics is to reward your friends and punish your enemies.
1st of all, CNN, stop trying to stie things up. Carney didn`t rip anybody.
Let me say this. I don`t like anyone in music/ movies / entertainment getting involve in politics / publuc policy. JAYz gets this attention because of his affluence and drop-dead fine woman. We have too much of a celebrity culture that facilitates this. CNN elevating this couple to the staure of world statemen is uncalled for and a the reporter that asked Carney the question should go to work for TMZ or a tabloid paper.
JayZ, don`t get it twisted The President may like you but you should refrain from claiming that he personally interceded on your behalf; don`t put yourself falsely in the path of power. Enjoy your wealth, be creative with your lyrics, practice your art, but don`t forget your place. You are only an entertainer.
It's Jay Z and Beyonce. I doubt they were discussing high level US political strategy with anyone in Cuba. They probably just wanted some rum and cigars.
Press conferences have turned into rap sessions? A new low.
Matthew & Law is the Law –
Citizens of far less means than JayZ HAVE been granted travel access to Cuba so don`t try to make this a 1%`er special treatment issue. Woman from California raises a very good point. Of the THOUSANDS of people that have gone to Cuba [including other celebrities] why were these two singled out for harassment. They broke NOLAW and they were sophisticated enough to check all the boxes legally. The mere, UNFOUNDED accusation by two Republicans that a law must have been broken strained credulity and I dare say was at least driven by partisan disrespect of Mr. Obama and by association , because of their friendship to the President, JayZ & Beyounce. The ability & resources of this celebrity couple are not what got them to Cuba but it IS what allows them to engage their critics.
Celebrities go all over the world. If they choose to go to Cuba or anywhere else that should be their decision to do so. Whether their fans disagree is something they must accept. If people are upset or angry then they should let the celebrity know and pull their support.
All of this over a trip to Cuba by two celebrities. Can we find a more important subject to discuss? Jay-Z and Beyonce are not elected officials and their travel plans are their own business. The bottom line is we are supporting a boycott that has lasted a very long time and that government remains in charge. Perhaps our actions are not working and we need to change stratefies.
A conservative "issue" only...moving on.
@Woman in CT
Travel to communist countries is banned? I don't think so. I know several people who've gone to China. heck, I even know some people who've gone to Iran (not communist, I know). Why do we ban Cuba, but not these countries? Oh yeah.. because its not in the GOP's interest to do so
I dont know what the fuss is about, they can afford it, they recieved the proper clearance from the correct department. Just because some under educated congressmen didnt look into it before shooting off their mouths, doesnt mean the rest of us should drink in the 'stupid'. Kudos to the couple and i hope they enjoyed their trip.
This whole "No travel to Cuba" law is a sad, ridiculous farce. People travel to the former Soviet Union, to China, to Vietnam. Because of a couple special interests, Americans can't go to Cuba. For what it's worth, I've spoken with Canadians who hope this foolish law never changes – a pleasant American-free zone.
Wow Republican Hypocrisy at its best. Really, Its time to move foward people and its long past the time to establish some kind of relationship with Cuba,The Berlin wall and checkpoint Charlie are gone and so has the cold war. I for one cannot wait till all the old hateful Rethuglicans are gone.
The US gives support to NK, but it citizens arent allowed to spend vacation $'s in Cuba. Anyone not see the hypocrisy?
I bet the Treasury Dept will investigate and prosecute like they have against other Americans who dare travel to Cuba
against American Law. lol
I was really expecting Jay-Z to blast these Cuban refugees who think they can take over U.S they say things about Obama that they cant say to Castro,they are refugees & American on paper(idiots)
Time to realize that Castro is dying and the Cubans want to be friends. They could be our next state; before Castro they were like Miami Beach. The ban, of course, is to stop people who used to live there but are now citizens of the USA from going home and giving the cops the finger. They have old crusty commies in their way like we have old crusty republicans in ours, and they are all dying off together.
Matthew, that is a bunch of tripe. Folks have been going to Cuba and some did so without getting approval. Jay-Z got approval and went about the whole thing according to the rules. Funny thing, you can too.
This is nothing more than another attempt by the GOP, conservatives, tea party (redundant, I know) to find something to hang on the president or his supporters. The allegations were unfounded and shown to be false. And you losers continue to try to claim all this was done with "special favors".
If you are so concerned about the wealthy getting favors from politicians, you might wanna look at the heads of industry. Right now, tech companies are lobbying to increase the number of HB-1 visas. So they can hire non-American citizens. Of course, your team is on board with that and you've probably been told that this is perfectly fine.
Rich folks and illegal Latinos don't have to play by the same rules. That is all.