PHOTO: Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty Images
After an incredibly tense week at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, including highly charged fallout over President Trump‘s offensive comments and tweets following the rallies and violence in Charlottesville, the White House announced Saturday that neither Trump nor First Lady Melania Trump will attend the 40th Kennedy Center Honors on December 3. The Trumps will also take a pass on hosting the traditional reception at the White House prior to the main event.
“The president and first lady have decided not to participate in this year’s activities to allow the honorees to celebrate without any political distraction. First lady Melania Trump, along with her husband President Donald J. Trump, extend their sincerest congratulations and well wishes to all of this year’s award recipients for their many accomplishments,” the White House said in a statement, according to the New York Times.
Since 1978, the Kennedy Center Honors have been awarded to individuals for lifetime achievements in the arts. The five 2017 honorees are producer and writer Norman Lear, singer Gloria Estefan, singer LL Cool J, dancer Carmen De Lavallade, and singer-songwriter Lionel Richie. Prior to Trump’s announcement that he wouldn’t attend, three out of the five honorees—Carmen De Lavallade, Norman Lear, and Lionel Richie—had expressed intent to boycott the event.
As de Lavallade, 86, said in a written statement to the Washington Post on Thursday: “In light of the socially divisive and morally caustic narrative that our current leadership is choosing to engage in, and in keeping with the principles that I and so many others have fought for, I will be declining the invitation to attend the reception at the White House.”
Trump’s decision to skip the event makes him the first president in 23 years to miss it. In 1994, President Clinton was en route to Budapest for a conference; President George Bush was at a summit in Malta in 1989; and in 1979, President Carter opted to skip because of the Iran hostage crisis. President Trump also skipped out on the White House Correspondents’ Dinner in April, opting to hold a rally in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, instead.
Kennedy Center Chairman David M. Rubenstein and President Deborah F. Rutter tweeted in a joint statement that the Trumps’ absence “ensures the Honors gala remains a deservingly special moment for the Honorees.”
The Trumps’ declined invite hopefully means that those who have made incredible contributions to the arts over their lifetimes will feel comfortable attending, as they more than deservedly should.
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