WASHINGTON — In a break with tradition, President Trump and the first lady have decided not to participate in events honoring recipients of this year’s Kennedy Center arts awards to “allow the honorees to celebrate without any political distraction,” the White House announced Saturday.

Past presidents and first ladies have hosted a reception for honorees at the White House before the Kennedy Center gala and sat with them at the televised event.

The decision came a day after the entire membership of the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities resigned to protest Trump’s comments about last weekend’s demonstrations by white supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia. The president blamed “many sides” for the violence that left an anti-racism activist dead.

But Trump has long had a contentious relationship with the arts world and some of the Kennedy Center honorees already had said they would not attend the White House reception in December.

But, the awards will go on.

Kennedy Center Chairman David M. Rubenstein and President Deborah Rutter say in a statement that they respect President Donald Trump’s decision to cancel a traditional White House reception for the five honorees. The White House reception had been scheduled for Dec. 3. Rubenstein and Rutter say a State Department reception and awards dinner on Dec. 2 and the Honors Gala on Dec. 3 will continue as planned.

They say the five honorees – Carmen de Lavallade, Gloria Estefan, LL COOL J, Norman Lear and Lionel Richie – are expected to attend both events. Several of the honorees had said they would not attend a White House reception presided over by Trump.

One of the honorees, television writer and producer Norman Lear, had previously questioned whether Trump would want to attend the gala, “given his indifference or worse regarding the arts and humanities.”

The White House said Trump and first lady Melania Trump “extend their sincerest congratulations and well wishes to all of this year’s award recipients for their many accomplishments.”

The honorees will be celebrated at a gala on Dec. 3, featuring performances and tributes from top entertainers.