Another day, another presidential advisory body crumbles. On Friday, the entire staff of the presidential arts and humanities committee resigned in protest of Donald Trump’s recent comments regarding the horrific acts of terrorism perpetrated by neo-Nazis and white supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Last weekend, an angry mob of white supremacists stormed the streets of Charlottesville and the University of Virginia, carrying firearms and torches, to protest the removal of a confederate statue in Emancipation Park. The weekend turned tragic when Heather Heyer, a 32-year-old woman, was killed and 19 others injured after an alleged supporter of the hateful movement plowed a car into a group of peaceful protesters demonstrating.
After the terrifying events, many waited for Trump to address the nation, and perhaps say something to bring a sense of unity and peace while denouncing white supremacists and racism. Unfortunately, that never happened. Instead, Trump said “many sides” were responsible for what happened in Charlottesville. But there aren’t many sides to white supremacy or domestic terrorism — and it seems the arts and humanities council agrees.
In a letter dated Friday, actor Kal Penn, artist Chuck Close and the entire membership of the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities cited the “false equivalence” of Trump’s comments about the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville as the reason for their departure.
“Ignoring your hateful rhetoric would have made us complicit in your words and actions,” the letter reads. “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 letter also contains a hidden message. The first letter of each paragraph spells the word “resist.” They start with the words: “Reproach, Elevating, Speaking, Ignoring, Supremacy, and Thank you.”
The arts and humanities committee was established in 1982 under President Ronald Reagan, with the first lady serving as honorary chair, for the purpose of working with both government and private agencies to promote the arts. All of the members who’ve now resigned were previously appointed by President Barack Obama.
After the letter was made public, the White House claimed Trump had already decided against renewing the advisory committee for budgetary reasons.
We’ll leave you with this quote from the above letter: “Speaking truth to power is never easy, Mr. President. But it is our role as commissioners on [this council] to do so. Art is about inclusion.”