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If you had been hoping to see Norman Lear and Donald Trump face off at the Kennedy Center Honors in December, the former Celebrity Apprentice host just dashed your dreams and likely avoided a very uncomfortable confrontation of sorts.

“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,” coldly announced the White House early in the AM today regarding the 40th Honors. “First Lady Melania Trump, along with her husband President Donald J. Trump, extend their sincerest congratulations and well wishes to all of this year’s award recipients for their many accomplishments,” the fleeing statement added.

The White House had nothing further to say on Saturday on the matter when pressed by media accompanying Trump at his working vacation in Bridgewater, N.J. Past presidents like Barack Obama, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, Bush Senior and Ronald Reagan haven’t hidden away from the ceremony, even when they or their policies may have been counter to what honorees believed.

For their part, Kennedy Center Chairman David Rubenstein and President Deborah Rutter tried to put the best spin they could on the whole fiasco. “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,” the duo said on Saturday after the White House said the Trumps wouldn’t be coming. “We are grateful for this gesture.”

However, being that the current President of the United States avoids most of the big cities in the country, the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, the United Kingdom and Democrats for fear of meeting people who disagree with him, today’s announcement or “gesture” doesn’t really come as a surprise. Even less so less than a day after every single member of the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities resigned in outrage over Trump’s repeatedly divisive remarks about the violent and fatal demonstration by white supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia that started on August 10. If you hadn’t heard, Friday also saw Trump’s chief strategist Steven Bannon get pink slipped out of the Executive Mansion.

Alas, even with all that, the Kennedy Center Honors event itself was fraying and the traditional pleasantries retreating to partisan and personal positions.

Norman Lear

All In The Family producer Lear has already said that he would probably not attend the customary White House reception for honorees.  “I’m not sure I want to visit a White House that has given such a cold shoulder to culture and the arts,” the TV icon told Deadline earlier this month.

Fellow honoree Carmen de Lavallade said this week that she would accept the award but not step inside Trump’s White House for any pre-hootenanny schmoozing. “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,” the acclaimed dancer and choreographer noted on August 17.

Also a Kennedy Center Honors recipient this year, Gloria Estefan has said she will go to the White House to talk immigration with the Deporter-in-Chief. Long time Trump pal Lionel Richie says he’ll be in the house while LL Cool J hasn’t indicated either way what his plans are right now for the December events.

Right now, Kennedy Center Honors medallions are still scheduled to be presented on December 2, the night before the Gala, at a State Department dinner hosted by Secretary of State and ex-EXXON-Mobil boss Rex Tillerson. The event the next day will be filmed for broadcast on CBS as a two-hour primetime special the day after Christmas – with or without Scrooge Trump.



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