WASHINGTON – The White House said Saturday that President Trump and first lady Melania will not attend the Kennedy Center honors, with the move coming after several of the honorees said they would not attend the traditional White House reception before the gala event.
The honorees at the Dec. 3 gala at the Kennedy Center are Carmen de Lavallade, Gloria Estefan, LL COOL J, Norman Lear and Lionel Richie. De Lavallade and Lear had said they planned to skip the dinner with Trump, while Richie was a “maybe.”
White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement that the first couple would not “participate in this year’s activities” in order to “allow the honorees to celebrate without any political distraction.”
After Sanders released her statement, the Kennedy Center said in a clarifying statement that the Dec. 3 White House pre-gala reception was canceled though the show will go on as planned.
A traditional dinner thrown at the State Department the night before the gala will still take place with all the honorees expected to attend, the Kennedy Center said.
Kennedy Center Chairman David M. Rubenstein and President Deborah F. Rutter said in a statement, “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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