The Kennedy Center announced its 2017 honorees Thursday
Some have been critical of the President
It’s a time-honored tradition: stars descend on Washington for an evening celebrating the great American artist. But this year, things might get a little awkward.
The Kennedy Center announced its 2017 honorees on Thursday, and some have been critical of the President.
Actress, dancer, and choreographer Carmen de Lavallade, singer, songwriter, and actress Gloria Estefan, hip hop artist and actor LL Cool J, television writer and producer Norman Lear, and singer-songwriter and record producer Lionel Richie will be honored in December.
Per tradition, the honorees will sit with President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump as they enjoy performances and tributes at the Kennedy Center.
According to a news release, “The President and the first lady will receive the honorees, distinguished former honorees and members of the cast, along with the Kennedy Center Board of Trustees, at the White House prior to the gala performance.” The White House has formally confirmed with the Kennedy Center that the President and first lady will attend the gala and host the pre-gala reception.
But some of this year’s honorees have been critical of the President, which could prove uncomfortable at the traditionally apolitical event.
Lear actively spoke out against Trump’s candidacy, calling the then-candidate the “middle finger of the American right hand.”
“I don’t know where love exists in what I see of Donald Trump,” the “All in the Family” creator told CNN days before the election. “I knew where it existed in Archie Bunker and the American people found it. That’s why they cared for him, despite how he talked. He wasn’t a hater. He was somebody who was afraid of progress.”
In a statement on the honors, Lear alluded to the current political climate.
“As a young Jewish boy in the 1920s, as an airman flying over Berlin in World War II, as a young father in Los Angeles trying to make ends meet, as a successful writer/producer touring a copy of the Declaration of Independence around the country – in the many lifetimes I’ve lived – I could not have imagined this day. And I am honored that it comes at an especially appropriate time. As a people, we – our values, our institutions – are being tested,” Lear said, later adding, “It is more important now than ever that we stand up for artists, for artistic expression, and for the valiant fight that artists fight to reveal the wonder and oneness of the human spirit.”
When Trump announced his candidacy in 2015, the Cuban-born Gloria Estefan joined forces with Latino stars, including Pitbull, Thalia, Wyclef Jean and Rita Moreno to protest his rhetoric against undocumented immigrants. The group recorded a song, “We’re All Mexican,” produced by Estefan’s husband, Emilio Estefan.
Richie called Trump a “friend” just after the election, but asked what advice he had for the then-President-elect, the musician said, “Do everything the opposite of what you said you’re gonna do.”
While LL Cool J hasn’t spoken publicly about the President, he has taken to Twitter multiple times to advocate on behalf of specific issues.
“@realDonaldTrump The people may think differently about your intentions as @POTUS if you solve the Flint water crisis. People are suffering,” he tweeted in February.
And in March, he tweeted about missing African-American girls in Washington.
“@POTUS @realDonaldTrump This has to be solved. Show the American people you care. #missingDCgirls,” he wrote, adding, “this is the perfect opportunity for u to transform the hearts of the people who don’t support you. #missingdcgirls.”
He was photographed with the Trumps, alongside vocal critic John Legend, at a 2013 Make-A-Wish benefit in New York City.
The honorees will be presented with their Kennedy Center Honors medallions at a December 2 dinner at the State Department hosted by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, and the gala performance will take place the following evening. The 40th annual Kennedy Center Honors will be broadcast on CBS on December 26.