President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump did not attend the 2019 Kennedy Center Honors, which marks the third year in a row that they did not attend the award celebration. The Kennedy Center Honors event took place on December 8, but it is first being televised tonight, December 15, 2019. Why aren’t the Trumps attending again this year? They’ve been a bit more mysterious about it this year than previous years.
The White House Did Not Say Until Two Days Before that the Trumps Would Not Attend, But a Reason Was Not Given
President Donald Trump did not attend the Kennedy Center Honors in 2017 or 2018 and neither he nor First Lady Melania Trump attended again in 2019. Deborah Rutter, Kennedy Center President, told AP that the Trumps were always invited. And although it wasn’t clear for a time if they would attend, the White House finally said two days before the event on December 6 that neither President Donald Trump nor Melania Trump would attend, the Associated Press reported.
An article written by The Washington Post on December 6 said that this year was the first time that the White House did not release an official announcement about their not attending the Kennedy Center Honors. It noted that the White House also did not respond to a request from the Post for a comment about their attendance. So this is the first time that the White House has not given a specific reason for the Trumps’ not attending. In previous years it was so they wouldn’t distract from the event or due to scheduling conflicts. This year a reason wasn’t given, but considering that at least one recipient said they would not attend if Trump had been there, it’s not surprising that the Trumps did not attend.
Sally Field, one of the recipients at the event, has said that she would not have attended if Trump had chosen to attend, Deadline reported.
Meanwhile, Nancy Pelosi got a standing ovation at the Kennedy Center Honors, The Hill shared. Since she is leading an impeachment inquiry and the articles of impeachment are likely being voted on by the entire House sometime this week, there might have been quite a bit of tension if the Trumps had attended.
Trump Did Not Attend in 2017 After a Threatened Boycott
Although it has not been said specifically why the Trumps did not attend this year in 2019, AP reported that the Trumps chose to first not attend in 2017 after several recipients had threatened to boycott and not attend their own ceremony if Trump attended the event. In 2017, Trump said they were not attending in order to “allow the honorees to celebrate without any political distraction,” HuffPost reported.
In 2018, Melania Trump’s spokeswoman told USA Today that she and President Donald Trump would not attend because of scheduling conflicts. In 2018, Trump was traveling to Argentina for the G-20 Summit and the Kennedy Center Honors event was happening the day after the G-20 Summit.
In the past, sitting Presidents typically have attended the Kennedy Center Honors, The Washington Post reported. Both George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton missed once because they were overseas, and Barack Obama once arrived late because he gave a primetime address just before the event. Jimmy Carter did not attend during the Iran hostage crisis. When they did not attend, the First Ladies sometimes attended in their place.
So it’s a bit unusual for a sitting President not to attend three years in a row. However, given the tension between Trump and much of the entertainment industry, it’s not surprising that he didn’t attend, especially considering the boycott threat from 2017. Unlike the last two years, however, a specific reason wasn’t given this time around.