President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump will skip this year’s Kennedy Center Honors after two of the five honorees announced plans to boycott the ceremony and traditional White House reception.
“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,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement released Saturday morning.
“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,” she added.
Since Trump has come under fire for his response to the deadly rally of white supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia, two of this year’s honorees — TV producer Norman Lear and dancer Carmen de Lavallade — announced they would boycott the White House event scheduled for this December.
Singer Lionel Richie indicated that he might also boycott the event, rapper LL Cool J has not indicated if he would attend, while singer Gloria Estefan said she would attend to try to lobby the president on immigration issues.
The awards program, honoring Americans who have made substantial contributions to the arts, is still scheduled to take place on Dec. 3 and will be broadcast on CBS on Dec. 26.
This is the latest sign of fallout from Trump’s widely criticized response to the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, for which he has repeatedly blamed “both sides” for violence that resulted in three deaths and dozens of injuries.
Numerous Hollywood figures and business leaders withdrew from presidential commissions and White House adviser roles in the wake of his comments.