When it comes to Kennedy Center honors — an event which recognizes lifetime contributions to the arts — President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump seem to know when they are not wanted.
Trump and Melania will skip the Kennedy Center honors this year to “allow the honorees to celebrate without any political distraction,” according to a statement from White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders issued Saturday.
Three of the event’s five honorees — singer Lionel Richie, dancer Carmen de Lavallade and television producer Norman Lear — have already said they would boycott White House reception for the event. Rapper and actor LL Cool J has not said whether he would attend and singer Gloria Estefan said she would use the opportunity to push Trump on immigration issues, the Washington Post reported.
In the aftermath of the Charlottesville terror attack, when a neo-Nazi protester drove into a crowd of anti-racism counter-demonstrators, Trump received a public censuring for equivocating his condemnation of white supremacists from both Republicans and Democrats — including members of his own administration. After waiting two days to denounce the hate groups by name, Trump went on to give what was largely received as a defense of the alt-right — a fringe conservative movement that espouses white nationalist politics.
In response, CEOs of Trump’s two business councils began resigning en masse, disbanding the advisory committees. Actor Kal Penn, who served in the Obama administration, also announced the resignation of members on the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities — a council formed under President Ronald Reagan to advise on cultural issues.
After the resignation, the White House said Trump was planning to disband the group anyways.
The first family’s decision to skip the Kennedy Center honors — an event presidents traditionally attend — is yet another sign of Trump’s isolation. His approval rating currently sits at 38 percent.
This is not the first event Trump is skipping because of political tensions. At the beginning of his presidency, the president and his administration skipped the White House Correspondents Dinner, citing heightened animosity between Trump and the press. This, however, seems less of a political statement.
“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,” Huckabee Sanders said.