US President Donald Trump and wife, Melania, will not attend one of the country’s top art awards, the Kennedy Center Honors, the White House announced Saturday.
According to Trump’s spokeswoman, the decision was intended to allow the events to go ahead without “political distraction.”
But the decision came at a moment of extreme political discord, as the US president faced a torrent of criticism over his reaction to the violent protests last week in Virginia.
The exceptionally turbulent week was capped by Trump’s firing Friday of top strategist Steve Bannon, a man known as a political scrapper closely associated with the white nationalism of the “alt-right” movement.
The annual Kennedy Center honors ceremony is a posh and generally non-political affair.
It is a highlight of the Washington social year, with tuxedo- and gown-wearing guests feting icons of American culture.