The White House has issued a statement that President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump will not attend the annual Kennedy Center Honors this December. This is only the fourth incident of a President not attending the ceremony (Jimmy Carter in 1979, George H.W. Bush in 1989 and Bill Clinton in 1994).
The official White House announcement released this morning:
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 honors individuals for their influences in the arts each year. The 2017 honorees include dancer and choreographer Carmen de Lavallad, singer-songwriter and actress Gloria Estefan, hip hop artist and actor LL Cool J, television writer and producer Norman Lear and musician and record producer Lionel Richie.
Kennedy Center Chairman David M. Rubenstein and President Deborah F. Rutter also released 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 decision likely has to do with the fact a number of the honorees have stated that they will not be attending the customary White House reception due to the recent events and political differences.
All in the Family creator Lear told Deadline:
I'm not sure I want to visit a White House that has given such a cold shoulder to culture and the arts.
And de Lavallad was even more specific:
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.
President Carter's reason for skipping the ceremony was the Iran Hostage crisis. President Bush was at a summit in Malta and President Clinton was traveling to Budapest at the time of the ceremony. This appears to be the first time a President has skipped the ceremony because of 'political distraction'.