In a strong rebuke of President Donald Trump equating white supremacists who gathered in Charlottesville, Virginia last weekend with counter-protesters who demonstrated against bigotry, all members of the president's Committee on the Arts and Humanities announced their resignations Friday—and urged Trump to do the same.
"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," wrote the group of 17 visual artists, writers, musicians, and other influential figures in the arts.
"Ignoring your hateful rhetoric would have made us complicit in your words and actions."—President's Committee on Arts and Humanities
"Elevating any group that threatens and discriminates on the basis of race, gender, ethnicity, disability, orientation, background, or identity is un-American," the group's resignation letter continued. "Ignoring your hateful rhetoric would have made us complicit in your words and actions."
The members also noted that the president has undermined the very purpose of the arts committee by threatening to cut funding for the arts and humanities.
"Art is about inclusion. Humanities includes a vibrant free press. You have attacked both," they wrote.
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The group includes artist Chuck Close, actor Kai Penn, and author Jhumpa Lahiri. Current members of the Committee joined during the Obama administration; several members resigned when Trump was inaugurated in January.
The members noted the controversy that stemmed from Charlottesville was only the last straw causing them to resign. They also mentioned Trump's decisions to withdraw from the Paris agreement on climate change, spontaneously threaten North Korea with nuclear war during a press briefing, attempt to ban transgender service members from the military via a post on Twitter, and propose a law that would bar people from Muslim-majority countries from entering the U.S., as reasons behind their decision.
The letter ends with the words, "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."
In an apparent hidden message to those in the increasingly vocal anti-Trump resistance movement, the first letters of each paragraph in the letter spell the word "RESIST."