In order to avoid any “political distraction,” the White House has announced the President Donald Trump and the first lady will not attend the annual Kennedy Center Honors ceremony, scheduled to be held December 3, 2017.

In a statement released by press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House said that both the President and the First Lady decided not to attend this year’s activities to allow the honorees to celebrate without any political distraction. The statement also extends the First couple’s congratulations and well wishes to the honorees for this year.

The Charlottesville distraction

The “political distraction” that the White House could be referring to include the opposition to many of President Donald Trump's political agenda as well as the intense denunciation of the president's response to a white supremacist’s rally in Charlottesville, Virginia that turned violent and resulted in the death of one counter-protestor.

President Trump’s first response was criticized for not directly condemning by name the white supremacist's groups. It said, “We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry, and violence on many sides.”

After heavy criticisms, the president read another statement which said that racism is evil and calling the KKK, Neo-Nazis, white Supremacists, and other hate groups who cause violence in its name criminals and thugs.

However, in a press conference, President Trumps again blamed both sides for the violence that occurred in Charlottesville. The backlash on his statement was even more intense.

Honorees protest Trump’s political agenda

This year’s Kennedy Center honorees also expressed their protest. They include Norman Lear and Lionel Richie who said they would skip the traditional White House protest of Trump’s political agenda and his response to the white supremacist violence in Charlottesville, Va.

Another honoree dancer Carmen de Lavallade told the Washington Post that she would not attend the White House reception “in light of the socially divisive and morally caustic narrative that our current leadership is choosing to engage in.”

The Kennedy Center responded by saying that it respects the decision made by the office of the President of the United States.

However, according to its president Deborah F. Rutter, the Kennedy Center did not ask the White House to back out of the event.

Rutter said she understands the reasoning of the White House decision. She added “It’s new territory for everybody in America. This is a new world that we’re all in.”

The fourth time a US president is absent

The absence of President Trump will be the fourth time in the 40-year history of the Kennedy Center Honors ceremony that an incumbent president will not be able to come. Former US presidents Bill Clinton, George HW Bush, and Jimmy Carter missed the ceremony at a point during their tenures.

Bill Clinton was not able to join the activities in 1994 as he was attending a conference in Budapest.

The elder George Bush missed the event in 1989 as he was having a summit with the then USSR president Mikhail Gorbachev in Malta. The Iran Hostage crisis in 1979 was the primary reason why Jimmy Carter did not come to the annual Kennedy Center honors activities.