Trump to Skip Kennedy Center Honors to Avoid ‘Distraction’By
Some honorees had planned to boycott White House reception
Dancer de Lavallade cited ‘morally caustic narrative’
Donald Trump and his wife Melania will skip the annual Kennedy Center Honors in December after some of the honorees said they would boycott a White House reception traditionally part of the weekend of festivities.
“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,’’ White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement on Saturday.
Three of the five artists being honored had said they may not attend the White House reception planned for Dec. 3, the latest in a string of public rebukes of the president over his handling of a white supremacists rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, a week ago.
It’s also the latest sign that Trump is abstaining from many of the ceremonial aspects of the presidency, and that he’s cutting a much smaller figure on Washington’s social scene than his predecessors.
The December White House reception won’t take place but other weekend events will go ahead as planned, the Kennedy Center said in a statement.
“The Kennedy Center respects the decision made today by the office of the president,” Chairman David Rubenstein and President Deborah Rutter said in the statement. “The administration has graciously signaled its respect for the Kennedy Center and ensures the honors gala remains a deservingly special moment for the honorees.”
Producer Norman Lear, associated with pioneering 1970s TV sitcoms “All in the Family” and “The Jeffersons,” and dancer/choreographer Carmen de Lavallade have said they would boycott the White House reception.
“In light of the socially divisive and morally caustic narrative that our existing 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,’’ de Lavallade said in a statement posted on her website.
Singer Lionel Ritchie said this week he was going to “play it by ear” about whether or not to attend. Cuban-American singer Gloria Estefan and rapper LL Cool J will also be honored at the Kennedy Center Honors event.
The traditionally apolitical event honoring excellence in the arts has been attended by presidents for decades. Trump this week has seen an exodus of key allies in the business and arts worlds after remarks that appeared to confer legitimacy on white supremacists following a violent rally Aug. 12 in Charlottesville, Virginia.
‘Very Fine People’
Trump disbanded three business councils this week after corporate executives started quitting the groups in protest over the president’s blaming “both sides’’ for the violent clashes. The president also said there were “very fine people’’ marching with the neo-Nazis and white supremacists that organized the rally. Several members of Congress publicly rebuked Trump over his remarks as well.
On Friday, members of the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities resigned in protest on Friday, pointing to the president’s handling of the violence in Charlottesville, which resulted in the death of one counter-protester in a car-ramming attack.
“The false equivalencies you push cannot stand,’’ actor and former Obama administration official Kal Penn wrote in a letter to Trump. “The Administration’s refusal to quickly and unequivocally condemn the cancer of hatred only further emboldens those who wish America ill.’’
As first lady, Melania Trump is the honorary chair of the arts and humanities committee, which was created in 1982 under President Ronald Reagan. The members who resigned were holdovers from the Obama administration.
In her statement, Sanders said the president and first lady “extend their sincerest congratulations and well wishes to all of this year’s award recipients for their many accomplishments.’’
Trump has had little involvement in social or civic life in Washington since his inauguration in January. He declined to attend the White House Correspondents Dinner earlier this year, becoming the first president in decades to skip the marquee Washington social event, and scheduled a political rally instead.
In contrast to his predecessor, who frequented many local restaurants over the years, forays by the president outside the White House have typically been to Trump-branded properties, including the nearby Trump International Hotel or his golf course in nearby Sterling, Virginia.