WASHINGTON — In a break with tradition, President Donald Trump and the first lady have decided not to participate in events honoring recipients of this year’s Kennedy Center arts awards to “allow the honorees to celebrate without any political distraction,” the White House announced Saturday.
Past presidents and first ladies have hosted a reception for honorees at the White House before the Kennedy Center gala and sat with them at the televised event.
The decision came a day after the entire membership of the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities resigned to protest Trump’s comments about last weekend’s demonstrations by white supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia. The president blamed “many sides” for the violence that left an anti-racism activist dead.
— Kal Penn (@kalpenn) August 18, 2017
But Trump has long had a contentious relationship with the arts world and some of the Kennedy Center honorees already had said they would not attend the White House reception in December.
One of the honorees, television writer and producer Norman Lear, had previously questioned whether Trump would want to attend the gala, “given his indifference or worse regarding the arts and humanities.”
Other honorees include hip-hop artist LL Cool J, singers Gloria Estefan and Lionel Richie, and dancer Carmen de Lavallade. It’s the 40th year of the awards, which honor people who have influenced American culture through the arts.
The White House said Trump and first lady Melania Trump “extend their sincerest congratulations and well wishes to all of this year’s award recipients for their many accomplishments.”
The honorees will be celebrated at a gala on Dec. 3, featuring performances and tributes from top entertainers.