US President Donald Trump and first lady Melania walk the South Lawn of the White House to board the Marine One helicopter July 25, 2017, in Washington, DC. (Photo by AFP)
US President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump will not attend one of America’s most prestigious art awards, the annual Kennedy Center Honors, the White House has announced.
"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," a statement from the White House read.
The announcement came a day after members of Trump’s Committee on Arts and Humanities unanimously resigned to protest his refusal to condemn last week’s racist rallies in Virginia. Several honorees said they would boycott a White House reception for the awards.
Trump was widely criticized for blaming “both sides” for the deadly violence that erupted at a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville.
Kennedy Center Chairman David M. Rubenstein and President Deborah F. Rutter released a statement welcoming Trump’s decision to skip the ceremony.
"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."
The Kennedy Center also said that the traditional pre-ceremony reception at the White House was cancelled this year.
Trump’s exceptionally turbulent week was capped by his Friday firing of chief strategist Steve Bannon, the latest in a series of high-profile West Wing exits in recent months. Bannon is closely associated with the white nationalism of the "alt-right" movement.
The president also stayed away from the annual White House correspondents' dinner in April, with then-press secretary Sean Spicer citing Trump’s strained relations with the news media.

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