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White House denies having any role in Jay-Z, Beyonce Cuba trip

U.S. singer Beyonce (L) and her husband rapper Jay-Z walk as they leave their hotel in Havana in this April 4, 2013 file photo. REUTERS/Enri
U.S. singer Beyonce (L) and her husband rapper Jay-Z walk as they leave their hotel in Havana in this April 4, 2013 file photo. REUTERS/Enri

(Reuters) - U.S. President Barack Obama's spokesman on Thursday denied any White House role in allowing a visit to Cuba by rapper Jay-Z and pop star Beyonce last week, after the hip hop mogul released a song that suggested he had presidential permission for the trip.

"I guess nothing rhymes with Treasury (Department)," Jay Carney said to laughter among reporters.

"I am absolutely saying the White House, from the president on down, had nothing to do with anybody's personal - anybody's travel to Cuba," Carney added. "That is something that Treasury (Department) handles."

Jay-Z hit back at critics of his trip in a rap entitled "Open Letter," released on the Internet on Thursday, saying he was a "boy from the 'hood but I got White House clearance."

Jay-Z, whose real name is Shawn Carter, and wife Beyonce - both notable Obama supporters - last week visited the communist-run island nation where they celebrated their fifth wedding anniversary.

In the song, Jay-Z, 43, likens himself to U.S. folk singer Bob Dylan and challenges critics to fine him or put him in jail.

"Wanna give me jail time and a fine, fine, let me commit a real crime," Jay-Z rapped.

The rapper also cited his close relationship with the president in the song, rapping "Obama said chill, you all going to get me impeached ... chill with me on the beach."

The visit by Jay-Z and Beyonce, which was approved by the Treasury Department as an educational trip, caused a stir in part because of the couple's celebrity and the longstanding U.S. trade embargo against Cuba that prohibits tourism by U.S. citizens.

The couple's trip was criticized by three Cuban-American members of Congress, all Republicans who support a hard stance on Cuba.

U.S. Representatives Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Mario Diaz-Balart said the trip was being used by the Cuban government for propaganda and assailed Jay-Z and Beyonce for exploiting Treasury Department regulations to vacation in Cuba.

Senator Marco Rubio also said that the visit highlighted the way travel programs to Cuba "have been abused by tourists."

In a reference to the muddled politics of the Cuban embargo, Jay-Z rapped, "I'm in Cuba. I love Cubans. This Communist talk is so confusing. When it's from China, the very mic that I'm using."

(Reporting by Eric Kelsey in Los Angeles and Jeff Mason in Washington; Editing by Piya Sinha-Roy, David Adams and Eric Walsh)

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