WASHINGTON — On the mezzanine of the Kennedy Center Opera House on Sunday night, the seats for a star-studded class of honorees were carefully spaced in an effort to disguise the obvious: The president, a traditional guest of the Kennedy Center Honors, was missing.
It was only the fourth time in 40 years that a sitting United States president skipped the gala, which honors the lifetime achievements of artistic trailblazers in music, dance and entertainment — and the first time that the absence was not because of a national crisis or convention. President Trump did not attend to avoid “political distraction,” according to a statement from the White House, but it emboldened honorees to air their angst.
“We happen to have somebody in the White House who doesn’t care about the arts and humanities,” said Norman Lear, the television producer and progressive activist who received the lifetime artistic achievement award. “I think he was smart to stay away and stay out of town — which is something he does on weekends anyway. Nothing new.”