Trump’s Arts and Humanities Committee Members Resign to Protest His Charlottesville Response

Trump arts committee resigns
AP/REX/Shutterstock

WASHINGTON — Members of the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities resigned in protest on Friday over President Donald Trump’s response to the Charlottesville unrest.

“Ignoring your hateful rhetoric would have made us complicit in your words and actions,” they wrote in a letter to Trump. “We took a patriotic oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.”

They added, “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 members, selected by President Barack Obama during his term, but held over during Trump’s tenure, include Kal Penn, Paula Boggs, Chuck Close, Richard Cohen, Fred Goldring, Howard L. Gottlieb, Vicki Kennedy, Jhumpa Lahiri, Anne Luzzatto, Thom Mayne, Eric Ortner, Ken Solomon, Caroline Taylor, Jill Cooper Udall, Andrew Weinstein, George Wolfe and John Lloyd Young​.

They also said that “reproach and censure in the strongest possible terms are necessary following your support of the hate groups and terrorists who killed and injured fellow Americans in Charlottesville. The false equivalencies you push cannot stand. The Administration’s refusal to quickly and unequivocally condemn the cancer of hatred only further emboldens those who wish America ill.”

The committee was created by President Ronald Reagan in 1982 to advise on arts and cultural issues, and among the first members was Frank Sinatra. While its members are unpaid, they are active on a number of programs. During the Obama years worked on support for such endeavors like the Turnaround Arts initiative and a cultural delegation to Cuba.

Some committee members said that they had expected to resign once Trump took office, but they were asked to stay on by Trump’s team, at least during a transition period. Since then, though, they have not gotten direction on what the plans were going forward, and some members said that they were not sure that the president knew that the group existed. First Lady Melania Trump serves as honorary chair, but committee members said that she has not been involved since Trump took office.

In the letter, committee members also protested a host of Trump’s other actions, including the decision to pull out of the Paris climate accords and the White House budget that proposed eliminating funding to the National Endowment for the Arts and Humanities.

Trump’s response to Charlottesville, in which he said that “both sides” were to blame for the violence last weekend, has drawn rebuke from Democrats and some Republicans, as well as a number of corporate CEOs. Trump disbanded advisory councils on manufacturing, strategy and infrastructure after it became clear that business figures were ready to resign from the groups. On Thursday, James Murdoch, the chief executive of 21st Century Fox, sent out a letter to friends in which he criticized Trump’s response to Charlottesville and wrote, “there are no good Nazis.” He also pledged to donate $1 million to the Anti-Defamation League.

The Arts and Humanities committee is not to be confused with the National Council on the Arts, a separate body that advisers the chair of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Those members are also appointed by the president to six-year terms, but they require Senate confirmation.

Update: The White House said that Trump had already decided not to renew the executive order for the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities, which expires later this year. “While the committee has done good work in the past, in its current form it simply is not s responsible way to spend American tax dollars. The PCAH merely redirects funding from the federal cultural agencies (NEA/NEH.IMLS) that answer directly to the President, Congress and taxpayers. These cultural agencies do tremendous work and they will continue to engage in these important projects.”

The full text of the letter is below:

Dear Mr. President:

Reproach and censure in the strongest possible terms are necessary following your support of the hate groups and terrorists who killed and injured fellow Americans in Charlottesville. The false equivalencies you push cannot stand. 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. We are members of the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities (PCAH). The Committee was created in 1982 under President Reagan to advise the White House on cultural issues. We were hopeful that continuing to serve in the PCAH would allow us to focus on the important work the committee does with your federal partners and the private sector to address, initiate, and support key policies and programs in the arts and humanities for all Americans. Effective immediately, please accept our resignation from the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities.

Elevating any group that threatens and discriminates on the basis of race, gender, ethnicity, disability, orientation, background, or identity is un-American. We have fought slavery, segregation, and internment. We must learn from our rich and often painful history. The unified fabric of America is made by patriotic individuals from backgrounds as vast as the nation is strong. In our service to the American people, we have experienced this first-hand as we traveled and built the Turnaround Arts education program, now in many urban and rural schools across the country from Florida to Wisconsin.

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. We took a patriotic oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.

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.

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  1. Timely Comment says:

    I guess racist remarks trumps being associated with THIS President.

    Funny that the WH defending skinheads in Charlottesville was the final strawman of support for him by the people in the PCAH— as if PREVIOUS acts and behavior wasn’t enough to do so??

    ESPECIALLY since they were appointed by the political Presidential (D) bête-noire of this orange Capitol (R) procyon lotor…

    /non-FOX News marketing p.r. “fair and balanced”

    • Chuck says:

      Considering that Trump NEVER defended skinheads, but in fact, condemned the VIOLENCE, you are an idiot.

      • Chuck says:

        I’m actually more of a Libertarian. But Johnson turned out not to be one, and Clinton was evil incarnate. I’m not a tea party person or a Republican, I’m American, and the lying bullshit I’ve been hearing nothing but in the media should bother you too. You do see the media is who is driving this crazy train, don’t you? If you don’t you’re not as bright as you try to sound. Clever put downs doesn’t make you smart. Seeing the truth in front of your eyes is. If you saw both sides of rioters swinging clubs and throwing punches but can’t publicly admit it because it doesn’t fit your belief system, you aren’t really that bright.

      • Timely Comment says:

        Chuck, you vote with that mouth?

        Not a good advertisement for your “brand” for people who read Variety… (Tea Partier into Hollywood stuff?)

        Keep on Trumpeteering on!

      • Chuck says:

        I know what a skinhead is, dipshit. And I repeat: Trump condemned the Violence from both sides. You keep avoiding this simple fact. Here’s a question for you: Did you see both sides heavily armed and fighting their asses off?

      • Timely Comment says:

        “skinheads”— colloquial term defined as White males belonging to White-supremacist beliefs. Per your President, “not all Neo-Nazis”— but STILL racist.

        Describes those Ku Klux Klan organizers who called for meeting in Charlottesville to march against taking down a Robt. E. Lee statue…

        Alt-facts AND opinionated Trumpeteer bleating much, Chuck?

  2. Sincerely, Jackie says:

    My guess is that none of these people took the time to watch what was airing on national TV last Saturday.
    If they had been watching instead of only playing follow the leader, they might have seen what I saw
    Many many special interest groups at the Charlottesville location. All with the same intent. Antagonize in the hopes it would lead to bloodshed.
    That was the goal because leftist government has taught them that the only way they can voice an opinion is to show up and protestn
    Try a pen, paper, envelope and stamp.
    Make politicians get back to doing their job. Read these opinions, send a reply or would that make you accountable for getting all of the facts? Your constitutes deserve your time and attention. We each have an opinion. We owe it to ourselves to voice OUR OWN OPINION AS AN INDIVIDUAL

  3. Jane Jewell says:

    You missed the T out!
    Paragraphs start with RESIST, but you chopped off the thank you at the end of the letter.
    Why?

  4. Jimmy says:

    Good article Ted Johnson. TY

  5. jimcarr35 says:

    Just more water being drained from the swamp. MAGA

  6. Toni says:

    This just makes him stronger. They were left overs anyway. Haha.

  7. Frank says:

    The hate Hollywood has for an outsider pres. Just proves what Americans think of the entertainment biz.

  8. Noel O'NEILL says:

    Oh are these people “JUST GRANDSTANDING” too? What a joke this president is. He never stepped up once….so naturally those around him are stepping down. Only flies gather around shit, the rest run from the smell.

  9. HE'S GOT THE STANK says:

    Trump is a big stink bomb. If you’re near him, you’ll get hit.

  10. pickles says:

    Quitters.

  11. Cecil B da Mill says:

    I want to hear Obama, Keith Ellison, the Muslim Brotherhood and celebrities calling out Islam for its latest round of atrocities in Spain.
    The party is over, enough is enough!

  12. JOE S HILL says:

    This is serious liberal media bullshit at its highest! Trump’s critics continue to blame him for failing to take a specific side in that Charlottesville mess last Saturday, and now his Arts Committee has chosen to bail on the man, all because they think he’s too much of a liability and a loose cannon, and this horseshit about his policies not being up to the principles of this country-where are these people from? if our Nation has chosen evil and disrespect over President Trump and the honest American voters, then this is going to become a serious war, and we’ll fall as a Nation because we have become too divided! the spoils of the Obama Era Presidency has caused major damages here, and we are dangerously a divided country! the liberal media has gotten way out of control and out of line, and they’ve picked at Trump and used every possible means to undermine his Presidency, and that is so not acceptable! undermining his policy on banning the Transgenders from our Armed Forces is also something that these people couldn’t handle, and that’s just Too Bad because that’s not what our Military is about! these Arts Committee people can all take a Flying leap off a building if they can’t handle a CIC that really wants to make our country great again, but the liberal losers in our Nation can’t handle the honesty of real American voters, and they all think that we’re racist and homophobic because we don’t agree or go along with their flawed ideas they all got from Obama, so sorry liberals, because things just can’t go your way! that goes double for these Arts Committee people who’ve chosen to bail-good riddance! the Murdoch CEO at 21st Century Fox can also take a flying leap too if he or his studio doesn’t agree with the Trump Presidency. Hollywood has gotten too involved with politics and other matters that they have nothing to do with, and the liberals who work there have also gotten out of control, and that’s bad for their business if they also continue to meddle in things that have nothing to do with them! the liberal left has shown America what serious losers they’ve become, and the divisions that they’ve helped make possible are a result! the people who started this shitstorm in Charlottesville are racist, but provoking them by taking down their Confederate monuments and looking for trouble was absolutely NOT the answer! I’m not defending their racist hatred, but I’m also saying that it was unrealistic for either the politicians and the press to expect our CIC to take either side, but the liberal media has again shown their true contempt for Trump, and they’ve made it impossible by viewing him as a man who favors racist supremacists, and that’s crossed the line! but attacking Conservatives and Christians may be part of the liberal agenda, but if we go down that road, we’ll reap misfortune and expensive consequences, especially when we engage in liberal ideas that divide us instead of uniting us! the Trump haters can despise what he stands for all they like, but when they start advocating and fostering anarchistic behaviors and attitudes, and especially with help by the ever biased liberal media, they can all expect serious confrontations!

    • No mention here whatsoever — and thus an attempt at absolution — of the daily bullshit conservative media’s embellishments, fabrications, or outright naked collusion fabric of lies. Fox and and their stable of talking anuses like O’Reilly, Beck and Hannity, and Breitbart, and Limbaugh…a galaxy of fat fathead fucks who just had too many answers to questions they didn’t understand and had not been asked. It’s one thing if it’s journalism. Reporting. Facts. I would disagree, but listen. However, FEVERISH SPECULATION and SENSATIONALISM and RANTING and PROPAGANDA is not journalism or reporting.
      From the unsubstantiated and traitorous birther nonsense (an attempt to undermine a vote that REALLY WAS a majority and an ELECTORAL victory for the office); to that embarrassing, moronic noise over the coffee cup salute, to Michelle Obama’s White House garden, to Benghazi, to Obama’s allegedly extravagant golfing vacations, to William Ayers, blah blah blah, on and on and on and on and on, 24/7. Much of it because the First Family was not white. Now you complain about the liberal media? And disrespect over President TRUMP? What a load of toxic hypocritical horse shit!

      Here’s a howler: ” the liberal left has shown America what serious losers they’ve become, and the divisions that they’ve helped make possible are a result!”
      Few words in America were ever more divisive than rants from the yaps of Limbaugh, Hannity and Beck.

      But you’re right. The liberal media does have contempt for Trump. They had contempt for Trump before he became President Trump. The liberal press warned the nation what a Trump presidency might look like. The prophesies are coming true. He has dishonored his oaths and promises. Hire the best people?
      Fix health care, he had a plan? Drain the swamp? He has engineered a whole, new, corrupted, government-wide swamp, and even you, who support him, will be paying for it in ways you may be too blind to see.

      If you want to be a uniter, think hard on the self-serving nonsense of your post and adjust your angry perceptions as a victim. Enjoy.

      • Chuck says:

        Prophesies? Ha! Every bit of rancor and bluster has been manufactured by the left. It’s not a prophesy fulfilled if YOU make it happen, as in “I had a prophesy that John would die, so I shot him in the head”. So much for your leftist prophesies.

      • Chuck says:

        William Ayers, blah blah blah? Glossing over some pretty messed up stuff there, eh Mark? As for liberal ‘predictions’ of his presidency, I think it’s less a prediction of Trumps intentions and more about the picture the liberal media intended to manufacture. For someone who sounds like he has a brain, your conclusions are so foolish. You start with a totally incorrect view of what happened, and build this house of cards on top of it. And not one bit of your story is true. I listened to Trump’s words, I saw the videos of the riot. I know what I saw and I know what my president said. And you don’t know what the fuck you’re talking about.

    • YOU HAVE TOO MUCH TIME ON YOUR HANDS says:

      The hate groups embrace the Confederate symbols. Enough said.

    • Fred Hodge says:

      Joe S. Hill….. you are as demented as 45.

  13. Bill B. says:

    He’s such an insane, dangerous, foul pig of a man. Eventually all will abandon him. This will go down in history as the worst presidency ever and probably the second shortest. They are probably right that he didn’t even know they existed. Certainly the trophy wife/Chairman didn’t. He’s so stupid and she so doesn’t want any part of this. The prenup must be brutal.

  14. Sam P says:

    Seriously? They didn’t resign when Trump presented a “budget” which zeroed out money for the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities and PBS? Exactly what art and culture did they think would be left?

    • Fred Hodge says:

      Sam P. Something tells me that you don’t understand how a federal budget is created. The POTUS can only suggest. Congress decides what gets funded and what doesn’t.

  15. Frank says:

    Take a look at the brilliant
    genius of corden
    CROSSWALK musical (hair)
    with Lin m. video.
    Omg so fab. Fave. Big fave.
    Save that video.
    Public arts. That’s how it’s done. Bravo.
    Lin and james. Fave.

  16. Rick Heinichen says:

    The first letter of each paragraph spells out RESIST!

    Well played

  17. Crystal Brooks says:

    President Trump HAS condemned the bigotry. But the fact still remains that both sides are to blame. The protesters who were there had a right to be there. They had a permit. There were no issues until the COUNTER protesters showed up. Then all hell broke loose. Don’t rely on the mainstream media for “facts”. You can see video images from the event. This is what happens when angry people confront each other. Sadly, a woman lost her life needlessly.

    • Simon Jester says:

      “The protesters who were there had a right to be there. They had a permit.” The counter-protesters also had a permit. Maybe best not to try to get all of your information from Fox News, sweetie?

    • Patriot says:

      “There were no issues until the COUNTER protestors showed up.”

      No issues? So you’re fine with a bunch of white supremacists, neo-Nazis, and neo-Confederates marching around carrying Nazi flags, chanting “blood and soil,” giving the Nazi salute; dressed in riot gear displaying neo-Nazi/white supremacist regalia; and openly carrying rifles and other weapons, while espousing their hateful, racist, anti-American rhetoric? Nothing to be concerned about?

      “Sadly, a woman lost her life needlessly.”

      She didn’t lose her life. A white, neo-Nazi, domestic terrorist murdered her using a car as a weapon, which is an ISIS tactic.

      • John says:

        “So you’re fine with a bunch of white supremacists, neo-Nazis, and neo-Confederates marching around carrying Nazi flags, chanting “blood and soil,” giving the Nazi salute; dressed in riot gear displaying neo-Nazi/white supremacist regalia; and openly carrying rifles and other weapons….?”

        It might be disgusting to many, but it’s perfectly legal to do these things, right?

        If you don’t like Freedom of Expression, then you need to change the law,
        but don’t blame the right-wing groups at Charlottesville.
        They were – for the most part – law abiding citizens who expressed their free speech.

        Again: If you don’t like this, change the laws, but don’t blame the protesters.

    • ska says:

      Actually stop this WHATABOUTISM bullshit. Fact is the UNITE THE RIGHT started way earlier than they were supposed to – their permit was pulled before the rally started. The counter-protesters had TWO PERMITS to march and rally. It’s bad there were fights/skirmishes but don’t put this on the mostly peaceful counterprotesters.

      The UNITE THE RIGHT came armed to the teeth, and expected to be violent and initimidating. All videos from FRIDAY NIGHT through Saturday AM shows this. Chanting white supremacist babble carrying NAZI and CONFEDERATE images and flags.

      Trumpy waffled, babbled, doubled down and lied. Heather’s mom finally saw that presser and doesn’t want to speak to him. What does that – what should that – tell you?

  18. geri313 says:

    Bravo, well done. Bravo. It’s time all true Americans stop mincing words and let President Trump know it’s time for him to resign.

  19. ............. says:

    Who cares? These committees should’ve never existed in the first place. This is Trump’s attempt to make friends with the swamp. How’d that work out?

    • ska says:

      So you obviously don’t read. The commission was established by REAGAN. These were OBAMA’s holdovers that were asked to stay in the transition.

  20. 1Ronald says:

    We all get it. They don’t like the KKK and Nazis on one side but the Communists on the OTHER side are OK. No, it is the extremists on BOTH sides, folks, who are at fault. Did I say BOTH sides? Yes, you did, BOTH sides have extremists who dilute the message and ruin it for all.

    • ska says:

      The UNITE THE RIGHT came armed to the teeth, in paramilitary uniforms as fake National Union, with NAZI and CONFEDERATE flags – barely any US flags – marching and chanting racial epithets. All videos shown they came to fight. Their white-power world sees violent revolution. Unfortunately there are/were skirmishes of violence from antifa counter-protesters but they believe that FASCISM has to be confronted. It’s not like the UNITE THE RIGHT folks ran away, they held their racist supremacist ground. The point is that POTUS muddied the clean-as-rain waters and starts defending statues.

      And he straight up LIED about the UVA march – torches, Blood and Soil, anti-Semitic, racist chanting, violence versus worshippers in synagogues and churches. ON CAMPUS. Nothing quiet. Don’t pull that bullshit Whataboutitsm.

      • Chuck says:

        So, you didn’t see any antifa or BLM protestors with weapons?! Wow! That’s what I call selective vision.

  21. Powerful statement & actions by true leadership! #American #Truth #ART

  22. Ted Faraone says:

    Someone must have shouted, “Abandon ship.”

  23. cowgirldiva says:

    The SWAMP is draining itself..!! That is good news..!! There are plenty of good people without strong ties to antiAmerican Hollywood who will take their places..!!

    • Sam P says:

      Do you feel the same “antiAmerican” [sic] Hollywood sentiment when conservatives like Chuck Norris, Ted Nugent, (Putin-loving) Steven Seagal, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Dwight Schultz, Tim Allen, Ben Stein, Mel Gibson, Tom Selleck, Susan Lucci, Craig T. Nelson, Dennis Miller, Elizabeth Hasselback, Gary Sinise, James Woods, Sylvester Stallone, Bruce Willis, Jon Voigt, Adam Sandler, Clint Eastwood, Scott Baio, Pat Sajak, Alex Trebek, Drew Carey, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Stephen Baldwin, Patricia Heaton, Kelsey Grammer, Michael Medved and Jeff Foxworthy express their political views? Or is it just Hollywood stars you disagree with? That’s just a partial list.
      Since when is it “antiAmerican” to be in favor of equality? The right to vote? That’s what left leaning people in Hollywood are for. However, conservatives (such as yourself) seem to want to shred the Constitution and rewrite it getting rid of freedom of (and from) religion, freedom of the press, giving women and blacks the right to vote, the direct election of senators, due process, cruel and unusual punishment, the abolishment of slavery, to name a few. Every time conservatives don’t get their way, they threaten secession and to tear the country apart (Steve Bannon actually admitted this strategy as a way to stay in power). Does that sound American to you?

    • ralcarbo says:

      Troll

    • Cowboydevo says:

      hi Cowgirldiva– These committee members don’t get paid to serve. They’re volunteers. You can cheer when bureaucrats (paid with tax dollars) quit; unless of course you are just racist/anti-Semitic and looking for ways not to come out and say it directly.

    • Roy says:

      Sure…and we’ll just have a big, ignorant swamp monster in Washington…

    • Ted Faraone says:

      Where does one find people for the committee on arts and humanities if not from show business and the arts? The idea behind these commissions is that since the government has its hands on the arts via taxes and subsidies it makes sense to hire people with some expertise in those areas to advise the government. Heck, Ronnie Reagan appointed Frank Sinatra to the board of the National Endowment for the Arts. Can one think of a better choice than Frank?

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