Sixteen members of the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities have resigned in protest of Donald Trump’s equivocation on white nationalist violence in Charlottesville, Virginia last weekend.
“Reproach and censure in the strongest possible terms are necessary following your support of the hate groups and terrorists who killed and injured fellow Americans in Charlottesville,” the committee wrote in a letter signed by members including artist Chuck Close, actor Kal Penn, and writer Jhumpa Lahiri. “The false equivalencies you push cannot stand. … We cannot sit idly by, the way that your West Wing advisors have, without speaking out against your words and actions.”
In the letter, whose paragraph openings spell out the word “RESIST,” the committee railed against the Trump administration’s activity. “You released a budget which eliminates arts and culture agencies. You have threatened nuclear war while gutting diplomacy funding,” they wrote. “The administration pulled out of the Paris agreement, filed an amicus brief undermining the Civil Rights Act and attacked our brave trans service members. You have subverted equal protections, and are committed to banning Muslims and refugee women & children from our great country.”
According to the Washington Post, some members of the Obama-appointed committee resigned upon Trump’s election, while others intended to stick around until the new president named replacements. Their patience evidently ran out: “All members have now resigned,” Kal Penn wrote on Twitter.
Earlier this week, Trump’s Charlottesville comments prompted multiple CEOs to resign in protest from an economic advisory council. As executives on a similar council also prepared to resign en masse, Trump announced that both groups were disbanded.
The presidential arts committee was created under Ronald Reagan to advise the president, to promote arts education, and to lead cultural delegations to foreign countries. As it stands now, the most important legacy of the 2017 committee is their decision to quit.
Lacking any voluntary members, the arts committee now includes only public officials with automatic positions, such as Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. First Lady Melania Trump is the non-group’s honorary chair.
See the committee’s full resignation letter below.
— Kal Penn (@kalpenn) August 18, 2017