Biden first praised all the honorees as “an incredible group of people.”
“And we the people, we see character. We see Amal Clooney’s husband,” the president cracked.
The tease got laughs, including from the actor himself.
Clooney’s wife, Amal, is a prominent and accomplished human rights attorney.
The quip was a “version of one of Biden’s most well-worn gags,” Mediaite noted.
Biden got serious and praised the two-time Oscar winner for his activism on behalf of 9/11 victims’ families and refugees, and his support for survivors of the 2018 Parkland, Florida, school shooting and their work for gun reform.
“That’s character,” Biden said. “That’s George Clooney.”
Other honorees included singer Amy Grant, singer Gladys Knight, composer Tania Leon and the rock band U2.
The ceremony at the Kennedy Center was highlighted by a routine by Sacha Baron Cohen scorching former President Donald Trump and rapper-turned-vocal Hitler appreciator Ye (formerly known as Kanye West). There was also a public appearance by Paul Pelosi, the husband of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) who was seriously injured in October by a hammer-wielding home invader.