President Trump and first lady Melania Trump will not attend the annual Kennedy Center Honors, the White House announced Saturday, to "allow the honorees to celebrate without any political distraction." Also canceled is the White House reception for honorees traditionally held after the ceremony every year since 1978.
Kennedy Center chair David M. Rubenstein and president Deborah F. Rutter received the announcement happily, issuing a statement thanking the administration for "graciously signal[ing] its respect for the Kennedy Center and ensur[ing] the Honors gala remains a deservingly special moment for the Honorees," they said, adding, "We are grateful for this gesture."
Before the Trumps' announcement, three of the five artists to be honored — producer Norman Lear, singer Lionel Richie, and dancer Carmen de Lavallade — said they would refuse to attend the ceremony, reception, or both in protest of the president. "In light of the socially divisive and morally caustic narrative that our current leadership is choosing to engage in," de Lavallade said, "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."