Legendary producer Norman Lear, one of the honorees of the upcoming Kennedy Center Honors, said he will not attend the pre-awards reception hosted by President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump in protest of some of the president’s policies.
Lear said he will attend the award ceremony at the Kennedy Center on Dec. 3 but won’t go to the reception beforehand.
“I am honored to accept the award, I could not respect the arts and humanities more, and I could not be more honored to be in the company that are being honored,” Lear said in a telephone interview on Friday. “But I will not be going to the White House.”
The producer, who created “All in the Family” — and its main character, the blowhard bigot Archie Bunker — plus “Sanford and Son” and the current Netflix revival of “One Day at a Time,” among others, said his White House boycott was in response to Trump’s budget proposal to eventually eliminate funding for the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities.
“If there was ever a time to pay attention to the arts and humanities, it’s now,” added Lear, 95, a longtime supporter of liberal causes who has been a frequent critic of Trump. “It’s what brings us together, it’s what connects us, it’s what holds us together culturally. And the arts and humanities could not be more important than now, when we are so badly splintered.”
He added that if Trump wished to talk to him at some point before or after the ceremony, “I wouldn’t say no.”
The awards are given in recognition of lifelong achievements in the performing arts, including dance, music, theater, opera, motion pictures or television.
Receiving the honor along with Lear are singer-songwriter Gloria Estefan, hip-hop artist and actor LL Cool J, dancer-choreographer Carmen de Lavallade, and singer-songwriter Lionel Richie. The honorees will be saluted at a gala at the Kennedy Center Opera House. CBS will broadcast the event on Dec. 26.
Estefan, the first Cuban American to receive the honor, has said that she plans to use the occasion as an opportunity to speak with Trump about the achievements made by immigrants. Trump this week unveiled proposed legislation to limit legal and illegal immigration, favoring foreigners who can speak English and have certain education levels.
“Mr. President, as a proud immigrant of this country, it’s very important for me that you see the wonderful contributions we have made,” the singer said in an interview with the New York Times.
The Kennedy Center honors have been given out annually since 1978. There have often been sharp political differences between the recipients and the president in office at the time, but Lear is believed to be the only one to actually skip the reception hosted by the president.
Singer and liberal activist Barbra Streisand attended the reception hosted by President George W. Bush when she was honored by the Kennedy Center in 2008.
In a statement following the awards, Streisand, who had been highly critical of Bush over the Iraq war, said she was surprised when she extended her hand to the president and he said, “ ‘Aw c'mon, gimme a hug and a kiss,’ and then he proceeded to embrace me. I must say, I found him very warm and completely disarming … even though I think perhaps he was kissing me hello as I was kissing him goodbye.”
She added that she found Bush “very funny and very gracious” and that “in some small way, he and I proved that we could agree to disagree, and, for that weekend, art transcended politics."