Donald and Melania Trump announced Saturday that they would not attend this year’s Kennedy Center Honors ceremony, which will honor LL Cool J, Lionel Richie, Gloria Estefan, TV producer Norman Lear and dancer-choreographer Carmen de Lavallade.
“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 White House said Saturday in a statement.
“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 event is scheduled for December 3rd at Washington, D.C.’s Kennedy Center, with a broadcast date of December 26th. At the event, celebrating its 40th anniversary, honorees are usually seated with the current President and First Lady of the United States.
Skipping D.C. traditions has become a tradition in itself for Trump, who in April opted not to attend the annual White House Correspondents Dinner.
Trump’s decision comes just days after both Lear and de Lavallade said in separate statements that, while they would attend the Kennedy Center Honors ceremony, they were skipping the pre-ceremony reception for honorees at the White House, the New York Times reports.
“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,” de Lavallade said in a statement.
Lear said he would forego the ceremony because of Trump “has chosen to neglect totally the arts and humanities – deliberately defund them – and that doesn’t rest pleasantly with me.”
Richie also admitted he was considering boycotting the event. “I’m gonna just play it by ear,” Richie told Today Tuesday. “I must tell you, I’m not really happy with what’s going on right now with the controversies. They’re weekly, daily, hourly.” A rep for Richie did not respond to a question on if the singer will attend this year’s event.
When the Kennedy Center honorees were announced in early August, both LL Cool J and Estefan expressed apprehension about attending the ceremony with Trump.
“I don’t have any stunts planned. I’m not saying I need to be there backslapping and all of that, but this time, this one ain’t about him,” the rapper said in a statement, alluding to Trump. “I’m not going to block my blessings or let the political divide stop me from embracing my art. I’m banking on the goodness and the optimism of people to say: ‘You know what? I get it. Let this guy have this honor.'”
Estefan, “a proud immigrant,” said in a statement that she would “make clear and express” her views on immigration to Trump. The Cuban-born singer added, “To get this kind of award is so American.”
Following the Trumps’ decision to not attend the ceremony, the Kennedy Center Honors said in a statement Saturday, “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.”