WASHINGTON, D.C. — President Donald Trump and his wife, Melania, will not attend the annual Kennedy Center honors — a traditional showcase of the nation’s arts — over concerns of a political distraction, the White House said Saturday.
The announcement came the day after the entire 17-member White House arts council quit Friday in protest over his response to the neo-Nazi rally that turned violent in Charlottesville, Va.
“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,” press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement.
This year is the 40th anniversary of the event at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. Five honorees were announced this month.
The Kennedy Center said Saturday it was “grateful” for the decision and said all honorees will now be attending the awards ceremony.
The White House did not provide details about its concerns.
However, some honorees had said they would skip the reception with the president that is traditionally held at the White House before the event, according to the Washington Post.
Television producer Norman Lear, singer Lionel Richie and dancer Carmen de Lavallade said she would not attend the reception, the report said. Another honoree, Cuban American singer Gloria Estefan, was planning to attend in hopes of influencing the president on immigration issues, while rapper LL Cool J has not said whether he would go.
That reception was canceled, and all honorees will attend the December ceremony as planned, the Kennedy Center said.
Other high-profile guests have declined invitations to the White House in protest of the president.