The president of the Kennedy Center, Deborah F. Rutter, said in an interview on Saturday that the decision was made by the White House after “ongoing conversations” this week between the Kennedy Center and Mrs. Trump’s office, but that the Kennedy Center did not ask the White House to back out of the event. It was only in discussions on Friday that the Trump administration indicated a new decision.
“Certainly they see what’s going on in the media and conversations,” Ms. Rutter said. “We’re balancing very carefully here, obviously.”
Ms. Rutter said that she is discouraged by what will be a rare absence by a sitting president, but that she understands the reasoning of the White House decision.
“It’s new territory for everybody in America,” she said. “This is a new world that we’re all in.”
Some recipients of the award, which honors lifetime careers in art, music, dance, film, television and culture, had already said they would not attend a gala event at the White House held in conjunction with the presentation. The Kennedy Center said that the gala had been canceled.
The dancer and choreographer Carmen de Lavallade, who is among those to be honored by the Kennedy Center in December, announced on Thursday that she would have forgone the related reception anyway.
“In light of the socially divisive and morally caustic narrative that our current leadership is choosing to engage in, and in keeping with the principles that I and so many others have fought for, I will be declining the invitation to attend the reception at the White House,” Ms. de Lavallade, 86, said in a statement.
In its statement, the Kennedy Center appeared grateful that the Trumps were skipping the ceremony. The center said that it expected all the honorees to attend the weekend’s events.
“In choosing not to participate in this year’s Honors activities,” the Kennedy Center leadership, David M. Rubenstein and Ms. Rutter, wrote, “the administration has graciously signaled its respect for the Kennedy Center and ensures the Honors gala remains a deservingly special moment for the honorees.”
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