There is just about no voice in television more universally lauded and respected than Norman Lear, the creative force behind landmark shows like All in the Family, The Jeffersons, and Maude. So it makes sense that the Kennedy Center would want to honor him, as it has decided to do this year — but Lear has already announced that he won’t attend the traditional reception for honorees, because the annual event is held at the White House.
Lear insisted on Twitter that he isn’t disavowing the Kennedy Center in general. But he was just as firm about the fact that he couldn’t in good conscience attend the center’s 2017 festivities if it meant playing nice with the Trump administration.
I could never turn my back on the @kencen. It represents the Arts and Humanities which mean everything to me. Of course, I’m accepting...— Norman Lear (@TheNormanLear) August 4, 2017
...the honors. What I’m not accepting is the @WhiteHouse reception with @realDonaldTrump. https://t.co/yCxS3RxIr7— Norman Lear (@TheNormanLear) August 4, 2017
Lear further explained his decision during an August 7 panel for his latest show, Netflix’s fantastic One Day at a Time, at the Television Critics Association summer press tour, specifically nodding to the Trump administration’s calls to eliminate funding for agencies that support the arts and humanities:
I think of it as a very simple decision. The Kennedy Center is about the arts and humanities. I’m somebody who believes, when the world is safe for everybody, the arts will play a large part in that. And a presidency that ... turns its back on the arts and refuses to fund the arts and humanities — I can’t imagine wishing to go there. ... It’s almost not political but for that. I understand everything else that’s going on, and you can imagine how I feel about the individual, but it’s the turning of the presidency’s back on the arts and humanities that I can’t honor that with a visit.
Don’t get him wrong: Lear has previously been clear that his opinion on Donald Trump is that the man is “a thorough fool.” But so far as the Kennedy Center honors are concerned, Lear hopes to make a statement about his investment in the arts as something far more important than a distraction.