After President Donald Trump’s remarks on the white nationalist violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, dozens of high-profile advisors have resigned, leading to the dissolution of his business, manufacturing and infrastructure councils.
Today, another committee has disbanded: the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities resigned en masse with a blistering letter to the president.
“We cannot sit idly by, the way that your West Wing advisors have, without speaking out against your words and actions,” reads the letter, which calls on the president to resign. “Ignoring your hateful rhetoric would have made us complicit in your words and actions.”
Dear @realDonaldTrump, attached is our letter of resignation from the President's Committee on the Arts & the Humanities @PCAH_gov pic.twitter.com/eQI2HBTgXs— Kal Penn (@kalpenn) August 18, 2017
The committee, known as PCAH, was first formed in 1982 by President Ronald Reagan to advise the White House on arts and culture policy. Current members include luminaries like architect Thom Mayne, artist Chuck Close, author Jhumpa Lahiri, and actor Kal Penn, who were appointed by President Barack Obama but have continued to meet under the new administration.
Mayne declined to comment, but his office said in a statement to Curbed that “[Mayne] stands with his colleagues formerly on the committee and believes that their letter speaks for itself.”
In the resignation letter, which was shared to Twitter by several members of the committee, the committee strongly condemns not just President Trump’s comments on Charlottesville, but also recent policy decisions on immigration and climate change. There is also a pointed passage about Trump’s frequent attacks on the media: “Art is about inclusion. The Humanities include vibrant free press. You have attacked both.”
The first letters of each paragraph spell out R-E-S-I-S-T.
The committee works closely with other federal agencies like the National Endowment for the Arts, which narrowly avoided its own dissolution due to this administration’s budget cuts. In addition to overseeing a variety of arts education initiatives, including the Turnaround program that focuses on rural schools, and awarding the National Medal of the Arts in an annual ceremony, the committee recently led a cultural delegation to Cuba. The staff remains in place to continue its programming.
Update: The White House released a statement that claimed the committee was already being defunded.
NEW: White House responds to @kalpenn and others resigning the arts commission, says Trump was going to disband it anyway: pic.twitter.com/9Xi2mzN7av— Sopan Deb (@SopanDeb) August 18, 2017
And Penn issued a response to the statement via Twitter:
Lol @realDonaldTrump you can't break up with us after we broke up with you LMFAO https://t.co/bNy240RNQA— Kal Penn (@kalpenn) August 18, 2017