Trumps opt out of Kennedy Center Honors, organizers “grateful”

President Trump and First Lady Melania are skipping the annual Kennedy Center Honors this December in an effort to avoid “political distraction.” The move was greatly appreciated by the chairman and president of the Kennedy Center.

“The Kennedy Center respects the decision made today by the office of the president of the United States,” chairman David M. Rubenstein and president Deborah F. Rutter said in a joint statement. “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.”

The White House announced the decision early Saturday morning with the following statement:

“Each year, the Kennedy Center honors the careers and achievements of artists who have helped shape cultural life in the United States with a weekend that includes celebrations and events,” the statement read. “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.

“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.”

The statement comes after two of this year’s honorees announced that they would boycott the Kennedy Center Honors reception held at the White House.

Citing his disgust with Trump’s proposed cuts to arts funding, TV legend Norman Lear announced earlier this month he would not attend the reception. “This is a presidency that has chosen to neglect totally the arts and humanities — deliberately defund them — and that doesn’t rest pleasantly with me,” Lear said.

Dancer and choreographer Carmen de Lavallade stated on Thursday that she would also boycott the White House reception because of Trump’s “socially divisive and morally caustic rhetoric.”

She put out a statement, saying, “In light of the socially divisive and morally caustic narrative that our current 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 President and First Lady typically hold a reception at the White House each year for the honorees in addition to appearing alongside them at the Kennedy Center Honors awards ceremony, but the Kennedy Center said in a statement on Saturday that the reception would not take place.

Friday, the remaining members of the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities all resigned in a mass exodus over their opposition to President Trump’s comments following the violence that erupted in Charlottesville, Virginia, last weekend.

The group’s members were reportedly all holdovers from the Obama administration. Some members of the committee had quit immediately after Trump’s inauguration, while the remaining members had stayed on board until Trump could appoint his own members.

Explaining their resignation, they denounced the president, saying, “Ignoring your hateful rhetoric would have made us complicit in your words and actions,” and alleged, “Supremacy, discrimination, and vitriol are not American values. Your values are not American values.”

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