Breaking with tradition, the White House has announced that President Trump and First Lady Melania will not be attending the 2017 Kennedy Center Honors so as to “allow the honorees to celebrate without any political distraction,“ according to the Associated Press. Traditionally, the President and First Lady host a reception for honorees at the White House before the Kennedy Center gala.
This year’s gala, which honors lifetime careers in art, music, dance, film, television and culture, is scheduled for December 3. Honorees include singer-songwriter Gloria Estefan, whose life is depicted in the Broadway musical On Your Feet!, as well as actor, dancer, and choreographer Carmen de Lavallade, whose Broadway credits include A Streetcar Named Desire and House of Flowers.
Lavallade had previously announced that she would be foregoing the White House reception in protest. ”In light of the socially divisive and morally caustic narrative that our existing 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,” the renowned artist wrote in a statement on her website.
The news comes a day after the entire membership of the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities resigned in response to the Administration’s handling of the racially charged events in Charlottesville, Virginia, last weekend. The panel, which includes two-time Tony-winning director George C. Wolfe, penned a letter to President Trump citing his “support of hate groups and terrorists.“
Rounding out this year's Kennedy Center honorees are hip hop artist LL COOL J, television writer and producer Norman Lear, and musician and record producer Lionel Richie.
The 40th Annual Kennedy Center Honors will be broadcast December 26 at 9 PM ET on CBS.