Last year, the Trumps announced in August that they would skip the December gala, a highlight of the Washington social calendar, after several recipients said they would not attend a White House reception hosted by the president.
Presidents have no say in the choice of honorees — they are selected by a Kennedy Center committee from nominations by the public and past winners — but they have hosted preperformance receptions at the White House and sit with the award winners throughout the star-studded salutes. Every president has attended since 1978, although Jimmy Carter skipped it in 1979 because of the hostage crisis and George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton were absent because of trips to Europe in 1989 and 1994. President Barack Obama arrived late in 2015. In those cases, the first ladies served as hosts.
Trump, who is expected to be in Argentina for the G-20 summit Nov. 30-Dec. 1, has twice called for the elimination of the National Endowment for the Arts, the federal agency that supports dance, theater, media and other artistic endeavors in cities across the country. Last year, the members of the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities collectively resigned in a letter that criticized Trump’s “hateful rhetoric.”