Artist Chuck Close, author Jhumpa Lahiri, musician Paula Boggs, and actor Kal Penn were among the 16 members of the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities who resigned today in the wake of President Trump’s response to the events in Charlottesville, Virginia. They issued a harsh rebuke of the president’s “false equivocation” and “refusal to quickly and unequivocally condemn the cancer of hatred,” and called on him to resign. Director George C. Wolfe was the lone member of the council to not sign on to the missive, and presumably is sitting in the conference room all alone, eating a donut.
The commission was established by President Ronald Reagan in 1982, according to the AP, and while mostly ceremonial, it works to advise the president on cultural policy and funding initiatives. But now no one wants to do that. “Supremacy, discrimination, and vitriol are not American values,” the committee members wrote in a letter announcing their resignation. “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.”
— Kal Penn (@kalpenn) August 18, 2017
It should be noted that the move is not particularly surprising. Most of the members were appointed by the Obama administration, and stayed after Trump was elected, until new people were appointed. What is surprising is that it took the artists, writers, and actors longer to step up–er, step down–than the business folks. Kenneth C. Frazier, the CEO of Merck, resigned from Trump’s American Manufacturing Council on Monday, followed by other CEOs, which led to the disbanding of the council.