(Getty/Drew Angerer)

Trump's Arts and Humanities committee just resigned in protest

While quitting, members of the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities asked Trump himself to resign


Gabriel Bell
August 18, 2017 4:18PM (UTC)

In a week that has seen exoduses from and shutterings of various presidential councils in the wake of President Donald Trump's response to the deadly violence seen in Charlottesville, Virginia last weekend, the commander in chief has lost yet another of his touted advisory groups. In an open letter, 16 out of 17 members of the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities resigned and asked the president to do the same. The White House advisory council is dedicated to cultural issues including arts funding, economic promotion of the arts and arts education among other responsibilities.

"The false equivalencies you push cannot stand," the open letter says to Trump. "The Administration’s refusal to quickly and unequivocally condemn the cancer of hatred only further emboldens those who wish America ill. We cannot sit idly by, the way that your West Wing advisors have, without speaking out against your words and actions."

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It continues by pointing out the specific policies of the president and the group's objections to them:

Speaking truth to power is never easy, Mr. President. But it is our role as commissioners on the PCAH to do so. Art is about inclusion. The Humanities include a vibrant free press. You have attacked both. You released a budget which eliminates arts and culture agencies. You have threatened nuclear war while gutting diplomacy funding. 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. This does not unify the nation we all love. We know the importance of open and free dialogue through our work in the cultural diplomacy realm, most recently with the first-ever US Government arts and culture delegation to Cuba, a country without the same First Amendment protections we enjoy here. Your words and actions push us all further away from the freedoms we are guaranteed.

"Ignoring your hateful rhetoric would have made us complicit in your words and actions," it continues. "We took a patriotic oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic."

The letter ends with the suggest that, should he not change his policies and behavior, the president himself should resign. "Supremacy, discrimination, and vitriol are not American values. Your values are not American values. We must be better than this. We are better than this. If this is not clear to you, then we call on you to resign your office, too."

The document is co-signed by all members of the committee including such notables as painter Chuck Close, writer Jhumpa Lahiri, actor and Obama advisor Kal Penn and 13 others, many of them holdovers from the previous administration. Director George C. Wolfe was the only member not to sign the letter. There is no word on whether he remains on the now otherwise empty committee.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, ex-officio members of the board, as well as honorary chairwoman First Lady Melania Trump also did not join the departing 16. The Committe was founded by President Ronald Reagan.

Earlier this week, several members of the president's Manufacturing Council and Strategy & Policy Forum similarly resigned in protest. Subsequently, the administration dissolved both of those groups.

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Read the whole letter below:


Gabriel Bell

Gabriel Bell is Salon's Deputy Culture Editor. Follow him on Twitter at @GabrielJBell

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