The Kennedy Center Honors have always been about prestige, not politics — but this year, as the newest batch of honorees ponder the first such celebration to be held under the Trump administration, several are finding it difficult to set politics aside.
During an appearance on the “Today” show Tuesday, singer-songwriter Lionel Richie became the latest 2017 Kennedy Center Honoree to voice uncertainty about participating in the traditional awards events: “You know, I’m gonna just play it by ear,” he told hosts Hoda Kotb and Savannah Guthrie.
Kotb asked about his plans after noting that this year’s celebration is not without controversy: Television writer/producer and fellow honoree Norman Lear previously announced that he would boycott a White House reception hosted by Donald and Melania Trump, while Cuban American singer Gloria Estefan said she would attend the event — because she hoped to have a chat with Trump about the value of immigrants in American culture.
“I must tell you, I’m not really happy with what’s going on right now with the controversies. They’re weekly, daily, hourly,” Richie said in the interview.
But he noted wryly that plenty could change before the event takes place in December: “We may be in a whole other world by that time.”
Lear told the New York Times earlier this month that he plans to skip the White House reception because he strongly disapproves of President Trump.
“This is a presidency that has chosen to neglect totally the arts and humanities — deliberately defund them — and that doesn’t rest pleasantly with me,” Lear said.
Richie said he empathized with Lear’s position. “I totally understand Norman’s point of view, and I understand that where we are as a country right now is going backward,” he said. “But all we can do is kind of sit here, and hold our breaths for a minute.” As to what his final decision will be, he added: “Stay tuned.”
This year’s awards recipients also include the first-ever rapper to be honored, LL Cool J, as well as dancer and choreographer Carmen de Lavallade.