Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said they would not attend “to allow the honorees to celebrate without any political distraction,” in a statement Saturday morning.
Television producer Norman Lear, singer Lionel Richie and dancer Carmen de Lavallade, who are three of the five honorees, said they would boycott the ceremony’s White House reception, according to the Washington Post.
Cuban-American singer and honoree Gloria Estefan said she would attend only to try to sway Trump on his immigration policies. LL Cool J, another honore,e has not said whether or not he would attend.
The Kennedy Center responded to the announcement by thanking Trump for the “gesture.”
“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,” Kennedy Center Chairman David M. Rubenstein and President Deborah F. Rutter said in a statement.
Presidents and first ladies normally attend each year, though there was a backlash against Trump’s attendance after he commented that there was “blame on both sides” in response to a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville that left three dead, including a counter-protester.