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Kennedy Center Honors skip political drama

Dec 05,2017
WASHINGTON - This year’s Kennedy Center Honors recognizing outstanding artists and performers managed to skip the political drama that loomed over it earlier this year - just ask honoree Norman Lear.

Ahead of Sunday night’s festivities at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, the longtime television producer behind “All in the Family” and other hits reacted with mock surprise when reminded that President Donald Trump was not attending.

“Really? Wow!” Lear said as he entered the building. “I’m expecting a warm, funny, wonderful evening. My guess is that the focus tonight will be on the arts.”

The president usually sits with the honorees and other guests. But Lear threatened to boycott the event over his opposition to Trump, and other artists expressed unease with the idea of meeting the president. A showdown was avoided when Trump announced in August that he and first lady Melania Trump would not attend.

Another honoree, rapper and actor LL Cool J, called the evening “an amazing, amazing moment” for a hip-hop artist who officials said was the youngest-ever Kennedy Center Honors recipient at 49.

He said there were many deserving rappers and performers from his generation but would not go so far as to say that anybody deserved the honor over him.

“I’m humble, but I’m not going to play pseudo-humble,” he said before the program. “I’m the one!”

The 40th annual Kennedy Center Honors ceremony also paid tribute to dancer and choreographer Carmen de Lavallade and musicians Lionel Richie and Gloria Estefan.

Honorees each received a lengthy and personally tailored onstage tribute sprinkled with surprise guests.

In the past, most U.S. presidents have attended the ceremony, but it’s not unprecedented for a sitting president to skip it. Presidents Jimmy Carter, George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton all missed ceremonies during their terms, but in all previous cases the first lady attended. AP