President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump will not attend this year’s Kennedy Center Honors “to allow the honorees to celebrate without any political distraction,” the White House announced Saturday.
“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,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement.
The announcement comes amid unrest following the violent Charlottesville, Virginia, protests last week. During a press conference in New York City Tuesday, President Trump condemned the neo-Nazis and white nationalist protesters in Charlottesville.
Kennedy Center expressed “respect” for the president’s decision in a statement Saturday:
A Statement from Chairman David M. Rubenstein & President Deborah F. Rutter Regarding the 2017 Kennedy Center Honors pic.twitter.com/YdkyryF3s7
— The Kennedy Center (@kencen) August 19, 2017
“The Administration has graciously signaled its respect for the Kennedy Center and ensures the Honors gala remains a deservingly special moment for the Honorees,” Kennedy Center’s chairman, David M. Rubenstein, and President Deborah F. Rutter said. “We are grateful for the gesture.”
Some honorees, including television legend Norman Lear and dancer Carmen de Lavallade, had reportedly declined to attend the White House in a show of protest against President Trump.
Follow Jerome Hudson on Twitter @jeromeehudson.