WASHINGTON – The White House said Saturday that President Trump and first lady Melania will not attend the Kennedy Center honors, with the move coming after several of the honorees said they would not attend the traditional White House reception before the gala event.
The honorees at the Dec. 3 gala at the Kennedy Center are Carmen de Lavallade, Gloria Estefan, LL COOL J, Norman Lear and Lionel Richie. De Lavallade and Lear had said they planned to skip the dinner with Trump, while Richie was a “maybe.”
White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement that the first couple would not “participate in this year’s activities” in order to “allow the honorees to celebrate without any political distraction.”
After Sanders released her statement, the Kennedy Center said in a clarifying statement that the Dec. 3 White House pre-gala reception was canceled though the show will go on as planned.
A traditional dinner thrown at the State Department the night before the gala will still take place with all the honorees expected to attend, the Kennedy Center said.
Kennedy Center Chairman David M. Rubenstein and President Deborah F. Rutter said in a statement, “The Kennedy Center respects the decision made today by the office of the President of the United States. In choosing not to participate in this year’s Honors activities, the Administration has graciously signaled its respect for the Kennedy Center and ensures the Honors gala remains a deservingly special moment for the Honorees. We are grateful for this gesture.”
This comes after members of a presidential arts and humanities commission quit Friday to protest Trump in the wake of his Charlottesville remarks.
The members — some Obama appointees — said in a statement, “Ignoring your hateful rhetoric would have made us complicit in your words and actions.
“We took a patriotic oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic. . . .
“Supremacy, discrimination, and vitriol are not American values. Your values are not American values. We must be better than this. We are better than this. If this is not clear to you, then we call on you to resign your office, too.”
The Obama holdovers include Kal Penn, who worked in the Obama White House; Paula Boggs; Chuck Close; Richard Cohen; Fred Goldring; Howard L. Gottlieb; Vicki Kennedy; Jhumpa Lahiri; Anne Luzzatto; Thom Mayne; Eric Ortner; Ken Solomon; Caroline Taylor; Jill Cooper Udall; Andrew Weinstein; George Wolfe; and John Lloyd Young.
Below is the statement by the White House press secretary:
Each year, the Kennedy Center honors the careers and achievements of artists who have helped shape cultural life in the United States with a weekend that includes celebrations and events.
The award recipients are recognized for their lifetime contributions in the arts and the positive change they have made all over the world.
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.