The Los Angeles-based WGA West, which represents about 9,000 writers, issued the statement in the wake of a Tuesday press conference in which Trump again blamed “both sides” for the violence at Charlottesville, Va., over the weekend. A 32-year-old woman, Heather Heyer, was killed on Saturday after a car plowed into a crowd at the event. At least 30 others were injured as white nationalists and counter-protesters clashed at what was billed as a “Unite the Right” rally.
The event had drawn members of the Ku Klux Klan and neo-Nazis, as well as movement leaders including David Duke and Richard Spencer.
In his first statement on the violence over the weekend, Trump blamed “hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides,” but did not single out the white nationalists or Nazis until two days later. On Tuesday, however, he doubled down, blaming Charlottesville unrest on “both sides” at a combative press conference.
“The Writers Guild of America West believes in free speech – even from Nazis and white supremacists,” the WGA West statement said. “But we completely disavow their views, which reflect the worst stains of American history, a history that still lives through racism, prejudice and systematic inequality of opportunity. We demand that violence in support of such views be properly punished. President Trump legitimizes hate speech and violence, and disgraces our nation.”
The New York-based WGA East, which reps about 4,000 writers, issued a statement Saturday that urged Trump to condemn white nationalists.
Separately, WGA West president Howard Rodman sent a letter to guild members Wednesday saying that Trump should resign: “In declining to condemn in unambiguous terms those who believe the white race deserves to be paramount above all others, our President – and his enablers – have abdicated any claim to moral leadership. He should resign.”
See Rodman’s full letter below.
Dear fellow Guild members,
Writing in 1915, Theodore Roosevelt reminded us that Dante “reserved a special place of infamy in the inferno for those base angels who dared side neither with evil nor with good.” It’s a caution that hits with shocking immediacy when the President of the United States can look at a mob of Nazis and white supremacists and say “I’ve condemned many different groups… You also had some very fine people on both sides.”
As a labor union, and as a guild of those whose job is to craft the narratives of our time, we refuse to “side neither with evil nor with good.” The issue transcends politics: it is, rather, a fight for the soul of our nation. By what he says and what he will not say, the President encourages the violent and murderous acts of the worst among us. In declining to condemn in unambiguous terms those who believe the white race deserves to be paramount above all others, our President – and his enablers – have abdicated any claim to moral leadership. He should resign.
Leadership needs to come from us: collectively as a guild, and individually as writers. Let’s take this awful moment in our republic’s history as a reminder of the power of our union, the power of words – and of the necessity for using them in wise and crucial ways. It is time more than ever to take heart from James Baldwin: “You write in order to change the world, knowing perfectly well that you probably can’t… The world changes according to the way people see it, and if you alter, even by a millimeter the way people look at reality, then you can change it. If there is no moral question, there is no reason to write.”