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Arts Council Resigns Over Trump Response to White Nationalist Violence

  • VOA News

FILE - Then-President Barack Obama awards the National Humanities Medal to author Jhumpa Lahiri of New York, during a ceremony at the White House in Washington, Sept. 10, 2015. Lahiri was among those who resigned Friday from the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities.

Every private member of the U.S. presidential advisory committee on the arts has resigned to protest President Donald Trump’s response to white nationalist violence in Virginia.

Seventeen members of the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities said in a resignation letter Friday, “The false equivalencies you push cannot stand.”

Actor Kal Penn before the 2014 National Medal of Arts awards ceremony in the East Room at the White House in Washington, Sept. 10, 2015.
Actor Kal Penn before the 2014 National Medal of Arts awards ceremony in the East Room at the White House in Washington, Sept. 10, 2015.

The letter was in response to Trump’s comments Tuesday that “both sides” were to blame for the violence at last Saturday’s white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. Three people died in connection with the rally, and 19 others were injured.

James Fields Jr. was charged with several felonies, including second-degree murder in the death of Heather Heyer. He allegedly used his car to run over a group of protesters.

The arts committee is an advisory body on cultural issues composed of 12 federal agency heads and 17 scholars and artists. The members who resigned included actor Kal Penn, artist Chuck Close, and author Jhumpa Lahiri.

“The administration’s refusal to quickly and unequivocally condemn the cancer of hatred only further emboldens those who wish America ill,” the letter reads.

“Ignoring your hateful rhetoric would have made us complicit in your words and actions,” it said. “Supremacy, discrimination and vitriol are not American values. Your values are not American values.”

Artist and photographer Chuck Close arrives for "The Late Show with Stephen Colbert" at the Ed Sullivan Theater in Manhattan, New York, Sept. 8, 2015.
Artist and photographer Chuck Close arrives for "The Late Show with Stephen Colbert" at the Ed Sullivan Theater in Manhattan, New York, Sept. 8, 2015.

The advisory panel was created by Republican President Ronald Reagan in 1982. All of the current private members had been appointed by former President Barack Obama.

The resignations followed the disbanding of two presidential business advisory councils Wednesday after most of their members left in protest against Trump’s response to the violence in Charlottesville.

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