Sixteen members of the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities resigned Friday, citing President Donald Trump’s refusal to explicitly condemn hate groups in the wake of violent protests in Charlottesville, Virginia.
The group, many of whom former President Barack Obama had appointed to the advisory committee, sent a joint letter to Trump Friday announcing their resignation.
“The false equivalencies you push cannot stand,” they wrote, referring to Trump’s condemnation of anti-racist protesters along with white supremacists who rallied in Charlottesville. “The Administrations 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 your West Wing advisors have, without speaking out against your words and actions.”
“Your values are not American values. We must be better than this. We are better than this,” they added. “If this is not clear to you, then we call on you to resign your office, too.”
Members of the group, including actor Kal Penn and attorney Andrew Weinstein, posted the letter to Twitter on Friday:
The first letter of each paragraph in the letter spells “RESIST” acrostically, though it’s unknown whether that was intentional or a coincidence.
The group cited more than just Trump’s recent comments on racism in their letter, arguing budgetary cuts to arts and culture agencies, his approach to threats from North Korea, the president’s attempt to ban transgender individuals from serving in the military and the United States’ exit from the Paris climate agreement also contributed to their decision.
The White House said the commission, which was set to expire at the end of the year, “is not a responsible way to spend American tax dollars” in a statement to The New York Times.
Earlier this week, Trump’s two big business councils, the American Manufacturing Council and the president’s Strategic and Policy Forum, disbanded amid criticism over the president’s response to Charlottesville. Trump tweeted it was his decision to dissolve the advisory panels to alleviate pressure on the executives, though many CEOs on the American Manufacturing Council had already resigned, citing concerns with the president’s rhetoric.