U.S. President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump will not attend an annual ceremony at Washington’s Kennedy Center honoring the lifetime achievements of select artists to avoid distraction, a White House statement said Saturday.
“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,” the White House said.
The announcement came after one of the honorees, dancer Carmen de Lavallade, said she would boycott a separate White House reception that is held in conjunction with the award ceremony.
The 86-year-old de Lavallade issued a statement Thursday announcing her decision.
“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,” she said.
Another honoree, TV writer Norman Lear, has also said he will not attend the reception. A third, singer Lionel Richie, has said he is “on the fence” about the White House event.
In addition to Richie, Lear and de Lavallade, singer Gloria Esfefan and rapper LL Cool J will be celebrated for their lifetime contributions to the arts at the December 3 ceremony.
The White House announcement came just days after members of the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities resigned in protest against Trump’s controversial remarks this week following last Saturday’s violent white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.
The latest developments are indicative of Trump’s contentious relationship with the arts world. After his election, Trump had a difficult time finding entertainers to perform at his inaugural gala in January.