Sunday 19 January 2020

Trump to skip Kennedy honours ceremony to avoid 'distraction'

Producer Norman Lear questioned whether Donald Trump would want to attend the gala anyway (AP/Matt Sayles)
Producer Norman Lear questioned whether Donald Trump would want to attend the gala anyway (AP/Matt Sayles)

President Donald Trump and his wife Melania will not take part in events for this year's Kennedy Center Honors arts awards, so those taking part can celebrate "without any political distraction", the White House said.

The Kennedy Center said it respected Mr Trump's decision and the show will go on.

Past presidents and first ladies traditionally host a White House reception in the hours before the Kennedy Center gala, which they would then watch from seats high above the stage.

This year's gala will be held in December.

The Trumps reached their decision on Friday, said a White House official.

It was made the same day that the entire membership of the President's Committee on the Arts and the Humanities resigned in protest at Mr Trump's comments about last weekend's demonstrations by white supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia.

The president has blamed "many sides" for the violence that left an anti-racism activist dead.

Mr Trump has had a long and contentious relationship with the arts world and some Kennedy Center award winners, who are being recognised for lifetime achievement in their fields, already had said they would not attend the White House reception.

One, television writer and producer Norman Lear, had also questioned whether Mr Trump would want to attend the gala, "given his indifference or worse regarding the arts and humanities".

Mr Trump has recommended defunding the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Dancer Carmen de Lavallade said on her website this week she was honoured to be recognised, but would not go to Mr Trump's White House.

"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," she said.

Singer Gloria Estefan earlier had said that she would set her personal politics aside to accept the honour, now in its 40th year.

She said the image of a Cuban immigrant, like herself, being honoured is important when Latino immigrants in particular have "taken a beating in the recent past".

Estefan once hosted a Democratic fundraiser attended by President Barack Obama. She said she and her husband, Emilio, are not affiliated with a political party.

The other award winners are hip-hop artist LL Cool J, who had yet to say whether he would attend the White House reception, and singer Lionel Richie, who described himself as a maybe.


PA Media

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Editors Choice

Also in World News