Trump to skip Kennedy Center Honours awards programme

Sunday, August 20, 2017

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BRIDGEWATER, USA (AP) — In a break with tradition, President Donald Trump and the first lady have decided not to participate in events for this year's Kennedy Center Honours arts awards so honorees can celebrate “without any political distraction”, the White House announced yesterday.

The Kennedy Center said it respected 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 honours are to be awarded on December 3.

The Trumps reached their decision Friday, said a White House official who insisted on anonymity to discuss internal deliberations. It was made the same day that the entire membership of the President's Committee on the Arts and the Humanities resigned to protest 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. Trump has had a long and contentious relationship with the arts world and some Kennedy Center honorees, who are being recognised for lifetime achievement in their fields, already had said they would not attend the White House reception.

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

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 recognized, but would not go to 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 fund-raiser attended by President Barack Obama. She said she and her husband, Emilio, are not affiliated with a political party.

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