Early on Saturday, the White House announced that President Trump and Melania will skip the Kennedy Center Honors this year "to allow the honorees to celebrate without any political distraction." The announcement comes after several artists — honorees included — vowed to boycott the reception at the White House, which takes place before the ceremony, to protest Trump's policies and the "socially divisive and morally caustic narrative" from his administration.
The Kennedy Center Honors, an annual event celebrating lifetime careers in the arts, has traditionally held a White House reception prior to the ceremony. But honorees this year have vowed to boycott or, in the case of Gloria Estefan, make direct political statements in front of the president.
Most recently, 86-year-old Carmen de Lavallade, a dancer and choreographer who is slated to be honored at the ceremony in December, announced that she would not attend the White House reception. A statement released on her website read: "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."
TV producer and writer Norman Lear had also announced that he will skip the event, and singer Lionel Richie said he was "playing it by ear." At the time of writing, it remained unclear if the honorees will be going in lieu of the Trumps.
The White House statement on Saturday morning read: "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 Kennedy Center quickly issued its own statement responding to the president and first lady's decision to forgo the celebrations:
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.
According to CNN, a Kennedy Center official noted that the Trumps' absence will mark the fourth time a president has skipped the event.