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Trumps to skip Kennedy Center arts awards

The White House has said the first couple didn't want to pose a political distraction to the event. Trump infuriated many in the entertainment world when he announced plans to slash funding for the arts.

In a break from tradition, President Donald Trump and his wife Melania will skip this year's festivities surrounding the Kennedy Center honors - one of the top awards for the arts in the US.

A statement released by the White House Saturday said the couple would skip this year's event to avoid creating a "political distraction."

"The President and First Lady have decided not to participate in this year's activities to allow the honorees to celebrate without any political distraction," the White House statement said.

"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."

Read more: The racist comments of Donald Trump

This year's honorees are television writer and producer Norman Lear, Cuban-American singer Gloria Estefan, singer Lionel Richie, and dancer and choreographer Carmen de Lavallade and rapper LL Cool J.

Typically the honorees are feted with dinner at the White House before the ceremony and then are seated with the first couple in the theater's luxury balcony during the ceremony.

But two of this year's Kennedy Center honorees - Lear and De Lavallade - said they would not attend the White House event out of opposition to the president's assault on funding for the arts and his open support for white supremacists.

President Barack Obama gestures during his Kennedy Center speech

President Barack Obama speaks at the Kennedy Center in 2010

Lear, a 95-year-old World War II veteran whose 1970s sitcom "All in the Family" transformed social awareness surrounding racism and bigotry, announced would not attend the White House reception shortly after being named as an honoree.

"It is more important now than ever that we stand up for artists, for artistic expression, and for the valiant fight that artists fight to reveal the wonder and oneness of the human spirit," Lear said in a statement.

Among other things, Trump drew the scorn of the arts and entertainment community back in March when he announced plans to push for an end to all federal funding for public broadcasting and National Endowment for the Arts in next year's budget.

De Lavallade announced Thursday that she, too, would not attend the White House ceremony, citing "the socially divisive and morally caustic narrative that our existing leadership is choosing to engage in."

The five winners of the 2014 Kennedy Center Honors pose together

The winners of the 2014 Kennedy Center Honors: Tom Hanks, singer song-writer Sting, singer Al Green, ballerina Patricia McBride and comedian Lily Tomlin

She was referring to last weekend's deadly neo-Nazi attack on anti-racist demonstrators in Charlottesville, Virginia and President Trump's insistence on blaming "many sides" for the deadly attack.

De Lavallade has appeared on Broadway and in films, and was the principal dancer for the Metropolitan Opera. She has choreographed for Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and Dance Theatre of Harlem, among others.

This years marks the 40th anniversary of the Kennedy Center Honors., the event will take place December 3

bik/rc (AP, AFP)

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