President Donald Trump will — again — be skipping the Kennedy Center Honors this year, becoming the first president in the gala’s 41-year history to decline an invitation more than once.
A spokeswoman for Melania Trump confirmed to USA Today on Tuesday that, because of scheduling conflicts, neither the first lady nor the president would be attending the event — an annual affair that honors those in the performing arts for their contributions to American culture.
Trump is scheduled to travel to Argentina to attend the G-20 summit, slated to take place from Nov. 30 to Dec. 1. The Kennedy Center Honors will be held on Dec. 2 in the Opera House in Washington.
This year’s honorees are singer-actress Cher, composer Philip Glass, country music star Reba McEntire and jazz legend Wayne Shorter. “Hamilton” creator Lin-Manuel Miranda and his co-collaborators will also be receiving a special award for their “unprecedented work.”
This is the second year in a row that President Trump and his wife will be a no-show at the gala. In 2017, the Trumps said they wouldn’t attend the event to “allow the honorees to celebrate without any political distraction.” Their statement followed the announcement by several honorees, including TV producer Norman Lear and legendary dancer Carmen de Lavallade, that they were boycotting or considering boycotting at least part of the ceremony because of the political climate.
De Lavallade blamed “the socially divisive and morally caustic narrative that our current leadership is choosing to engage in” as the reason behind her boycott. Lear skewered the Trump administration for threatening to get rid of the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities.
Several of this year’s nominees have been similarly vocal in their condemnation of the president and his policies. Glass has referred to Trump as an idiot; Cher has compared him to “Hitler” (and has said she’d be “thrilled” if Trump does not attend the gala); and Miranda excoriated the president’s response to Puerto Rico’s post-Hurricane Maria devastation, telling him “you’re going straight to hell.”
As The Washington Post noted, the sitting president has attended the Honors every year since 1978 with just a handful of exceptions. Jimmy Carter did not attend in 1979 because of the ongoing Iran hostage crisis. In 1989 and 1994, George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton, respectively, were not present because of overseas trips. And in 2015, Barack Obama arrived late to the event after delivering a primetime address to the nation from the Oval Office.
In all those cases, the first ladies served as hosts, the Post reported.
Some Twitter users reacted to the Trumps’ decision to skip this year’s Honors with disappointment and disdain.