Entire President's Arts Council Quits 08/19 10:23
NEW YORK (AP) -- Another presidential advisory committee is breaking up.
Actor Kal Penn, artist Chuck Close and the entire membership of the
President's Committee on the Arts and the Humanities have announced their
resignation. A letter dated Friday, and signed by 16 of 17 committee members,
cited the "false equivalence" of President Donald Trump's comments about last
weekend's "Unite the Right" gathering in Charlottesville, Virginia. Trump has
blamed "many sides" for the demonstrations that left an anti-racism activist
The White House said Trump had already decided against renewing the advisory
committee for budgetary reasons.
"Ignoring your hateful rhetoric would have made us complicit in your words
and actions," the letter reads. "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 only member whose name did not appear was Broadway director George C.
Wolfe. Representatives for Wolfe at Creative Arts Agency said Friday that he
was also resigning and that his name would be added to the letter, which seemed
to contain a hidden political message beyond the ones stated openly. The first
initials of the letter's six main paragraphs spell out "r-e-s-i-s-t."
"Earlier this month it was decided that President Trump will not renew the
executive order for the President's Committee on the Arts and the Humanities
(PCAH), which expires later this year," the White House said in a statement
attributed to an unnamed spokesperson. "While the committee has done good work
in the past, in its current form it simply is not a responsible way to spend
American tax dollars."
The statement said the committee "merely redirects funding" from federal
cultural agencies that report directly to the president, Congress and taxpayers.
"These cultural agencies do tremendous work and they will continue to engage
in these important projects," the statement said.
Earlier this week, two business advisory councils were disbanded as members
left in protest.
Friday's exodus heightened the arts world's contentious relationship with
Trump. The president struggled to find entertainers, many of whom backed
Hillary Clinton in 2016, to perform at his inaugural gala, and Kennedy Center
honorees for lifetime achievement have already said they will not attend the
White House reception in December.
As president, Trump has also recommended defunding the National Endowment
for the Arts and National Endowment for the Humanities.
The arts and humanities committee was established in 1982 under President
Ronald Reagan and, with the first lady serving as honorary chair, works with
both government and private agencies in promoting the arts through such
programs as Turnaround Arts and Save America's Treasures. Others signing the
resignation letter included Pulitzer Prize-winning author Jhumpa Lahiri; and
Vicki Kennedy, widow of Sen. Edward M. Kennedy. All were appointed by President