Presidential arts committee resigns en masse after Charlottesville

By Eric DuVall  |  Updated Aug. 18, 2017 at 7:04 PM
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Aug. 18 (UPI) -- Members of an Obama-era presidential arts advisory committee resigned their service under President Donald Trump on Friday in response to his comments about racial violence in Charlottesville, Va.

The 17-member Presidential Committee on Arts & Humanities made the unanimous announcement. The group included actor Kal Penn, artist Chuck Close and lawyer Vicki Kennedy, widow of the late Sen. Ted Kennedy, among others.

Penn published a letter on behalf of the panel on his Twitter page Friday.

The group had not formally met since Trump took office in January, but had continued its advocacy work under his administration.

In the wake of the racially motivated violence in Charlottesville last week, Trump twice stated people on "many sides" were to blame. The remarks prompted an outcry from both Republicans and Democrats who said Trump had likened anti-racist counter protesters, one of whom was killed, with members of the Ku Klux Klan, neo Nazis and other hate groups that descended on Charlottesville for a "Unite the Right" rally.

"The false equivalencies you push cannot stand," the committee members wrote. "We cannot sit idly by, the way that your West Wing advisors have, without speaking out against your words and actions."

The resignations come on the heels of Trump's decision to disband advisory panels of CEOs and other business leaders after members expressed misgivings about the administration's response to the Charlottesville violence.

In response, the White House released a statement saying Trump had already intended to disband the arts committee after its charter expired later this year. The statement said the panel was "not a responsible way to spend American tax dollars."

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