Lionel Richie and LL Cool J Among Kennedy Center Honorees in Ceremony Trumps Skipped

It was the first time in 40 years that the event was not attended by the president and first lady.

It's one of the biggest nights of the year in Washington, but both President Trump and the first lady stayed away from the annual Kennedy Center Honors. 

For the first time in 40 years, both the sitting president and first lady were not in attendance at the prestigious ceremony.

The president and first lady usually sit to the right of the recipients. This year, the presidential box was “reconfigured so there would be no empty spaces,” according to the Kennedy Center. 

Honorees for 2017 included Gloria Estefan, Lionel Richie, Norman Lear, LL Cool J and Carmen de Lavallade.  

President Trump's no-show was not a surprise. He announced back in August that he would not attend "to allow the honorees to celebrate without any distraction," according to a statement from The White House. 

Lear had previously threatened to boycott the reception. 

“The president is not here tonight — what kind of message do you think that sends?” Lear was asked by reporters. 

“I don't know," he replied. "You'd have to ask him.”

While the president was not at the Kennedy Center Sunday night, he did come to the defense of embattled general Michael Flynn, who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about conversations with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak. 

“I feel badly for Gen. Flynn," he told reporters Monday morning. "I feel very badly. He's led a very strong life and I feel very badly,” he told reporters Monday morning after the former cabinet member to the president pleaded guilty for lying to the FBI on Friday

Also on Monday morning, there were red faces on The View following Friday’s show-stopping announcement that Flynn had cut a plea deal with special counsel Robert Mueller.

But that report was not accurate, and ABC News' Brian Ross has been suspended without pay for four weeks and Joy Behar apologized on The View.

“On Friday’s show apparently I was guilty of premature evaluation,” she joked. 

A published report in Politico says there is paranoia among White House staffers who fear colleagues could be wearing wires and cooperating with the special counsel.