President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump have announced that they will no longer be attending the Kennedy Center Honors ceremony after several of the honorees publicized that they would not be attending the traditional White House reception.
The honorees, which include Lionel Richie and Norman Lear, said they would be skipping the reception in protest to Trump's political agenda and his response to the violent events in Charlottesville, Virginia last weekend.
The Kennedy Center Honors are an annual fundraising event. For the past 40 years, the non-profit performing arts organization has raised money while honoring the careers and lifetime achievements of prominent performing artists who have made significant contributions to the arts. It has long been a tradition for the President to host a White House reception before the event for those being honored. Often, the President and first lady will also sit with the honorees at the ceremony. This year, the list of honorees include Lionel Richie, Norman Lear, LL Cool J, Carmen de Lavallade, and Gloria Estefan.
In a recent appearance on the Today show, Lionel Richie voiced his concerns saying, "I must tell you, I’m not really happy with what’s going on right now with the controversies. They’re weekly, daily, hourly."
Richie's sentiment is shared by his fellow honoree, television writer and producer Norman Lear, who is known for his political activism and for being the creative force behind shows like All In The Family and The Jeffersons which sparked political conversations during their time. Earlier this month, he told The New York Times, "This is a presidency that has chosen to neglect totally the arts and humanities — deliberately defund them — and that doesn’t rest pleasantly with me."
The news was announced in a statement made by White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders who said that they decided not to participate this year, "to allow the honorees to celebrate without any political distraction."
According to a report by CNN, this will be the fourth time a President has not attended the event. This list of presidents who have not attended includes President Jimmy Carter in 1979, President H.W. Bush in 1989, and President Bill Clinton in 1994. However, these presidents did attend other years while they were in office.
David M. Rubenstein, Kennedy Center Chairman, and President Deborah F. Rutter also released a statement following the announcement saying, "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."
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