Since descending that escalator and ascending to the Oval Office, President Trump has broken with traditions literally more times than the average citizen can say, “wait, what?” For this and so many reasons, it is not all that surprising that Donald and Melania Trump are skipping the Kennedy Center Honors for the second year in a row.
Though the president and first lady typically attend the Honors, they are only hosts of a ceremonial sort: They do not have a hand in selecting the year’s five honorees. But they’re almost always there, barring some international catastrophe — the hostage crisis kept Jimmy Carter from attending in 1979 — or travel (George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton missed due to European trips in 1989 and 1994, respectively). Save for these absences, plus a late arrival by Obama in 2015, “every president has attended since 1978,” the Washington Post reports.
But not the Trumps. Per the Post:
Melania Trump’s spokeswoman, Stephanie Grisham, said Tuesday that “at this time” the couple are not planning to attend the annual fundraiser. The 2018 Honors will salute the lifetime achievements of four artists — composer Philip Glass, singer-actresses Cher and Reba McEntire, and jazz musician Wayne Shorter — as well as the creative team behind the groundbreaking musical Hamilton.
The Kennedy Center did not immediately respond for comment.
The 2018 honorees, who will be feted on December 2, were announced back in July. As soon as the names came out, speculation began about how exactly President Trump would clap politely while sitting beside a phalanx of performers who have expressed their disgust with him in caps-locked clarity.
After Trump reamed out San Juan mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz for accurately describing the devastation Hurricane Maria brought to Puerto Rico and imploring the president to send much-needed federal assistance, Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda tweeted that Trump was “going straight to hell.”
That said, as ThinkProgress has noted before, Trump is a voracious consumer of popular culture:
He is obsessed with television (who reportedly watches it non-stop, even in the White House); he regularly live-tweets the Oscars; he has strong opinions about what theater should be (“a safe and special space”) and shouldn’t be (“very rude”); he is fixated on the ratings of a number of television shows from morning news to late night comedy; he cares deeply about the romantic entanglements of actors he admires.
But this fixation with entertainment has not translated into warm relations with the individuals who create it. Trump notably struggled to find musicians who would be willing to perform at his Inauguration festivities; at the time even the Rockettes revolted.
In 2017, Mr. and Mrs. Trump announced they would not attend the Honors “to allow the honorees to celebrate without any political distraction.” This was not long after Trump released his proposed preliminary budget, where he revealed his hopes to eliminate entirely the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and the Institute of Museum and Library Services.
Shortly after that, all 16 of the “prominent artists, authors, performers and architects on the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities” resigned, a collective act of protest against Trump’s defense of the neo-Nazis who marched on Charlottesville, Va.