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Trump to Skip Kennedy Center Awards    08/19 10:19

   BRIDGEWATER, N.J. (AP) -- In a break with tradition, President Donald Trump 
and the first lady have decided not to participate in events honoring 
recipients of this year's Kennedy Center Honors arts awards to "allow the 
honorees to celebrate without any political distraction," the White House 
announced Saturday.

   The Kennedy Center said it respected Trump's decision and that the show will 
go on.

   Past presidents and first ladies have hosted a White House reception in the 
hours before the Kennedy Center gala, which they would then watch from seats 
high above the stage.

   The decision came a day after 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 blamed "many sides" for the violence that left an 
anti-racism activist dead.

   Trump has also had a long and contentious relationship with the arts world 
and some of the Kennedy Center honorees already had said they would not attend 
the White House reception hosted by him in December.

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

   On Thursday, dancer Carmen de Lavallade said in a statement on her website 
that she was honored to receive the award, but would not join Trump at the 
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.

   The other honorees are hip-hop artist LL Cool J and singers Gloria Estefan 
and Lionel Richie. It's the 40th year of the awards, which honor people who 
have influenced American culture through the arts.

   The White House said Trump and first lady Melania Trump "extend their 
sincerest congratulations and well wishes to all of this year's award 
recipients for their many accomplishments."

   Kennedy Center Chairman David M. Rubenstein and President Deborah F. Rutter 
said in a joint statement that they respect Trump's decision.

   "In choosing not to participate in this year's Honors activities, the 
administration has graciously signaled its respect for the Kennedy Center and 
ensures the Honors gala remains a deservingly special moment for the honorees. 
We are grateful for this gesture" they said.

   The honorees will be celebrated at a Kennedy Center gala on Dec. 3, 
featuring performances and tributes from top entertainers. A State Department 
reception and awards dinner on Dec. 2 will also be held as planned.

   Rubenstein and Rutter said all five honorees were expected to attend both 


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