All 17 members of the White House advisory commission on the arts and humanities, including several from Hollywood, resigned en masse Friday to protest President Trump‘s divisive comments on the deadly violence in Charlottesville, Va.
The move follows the disbanding of two CEO councils created by the White House after a slew of major business leaders quit this week to protest what they said was the president’s failure to sufficiently condemn the neo-Nazi and other racist groups in Saturday’s clashes.
The collapse of the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities marks the latest break between the Trump White House and the arts community, which had widely embraced President Obama, and marks his further isolation since a combative news conference Tuesday when he appeared to equate the far-right extremists with those who opposed them.
“Reproach and censure in the strongest possible terms are necessary following your support of the hate groups and terrorists who killed and injured fellow Americans in Charlottesville,” the arts group wrote in a letter to Trump. “The false equivalencies you push cannot stand.”
“Supremacy, discrimination, and vitriol are not American values,” they wrote. “Your values are not American values.”
In a statement later Friday, the White House said that President Trump had decided “earlier this month” that he would not renew the commission when it expires this year.
“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 was created in 1982 under President Reagan and acts as an advisory panel on cultural issues. It is among dozens of mostly ceremonial White House panels that advise the president on business, education and other issues.
It draws from Hollywood, Broadway and the broader arts and entertainment community. First Lady Melania Trump is the honorary chairwoman.
The committee works with the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Institute of Museum and Library Services, along with other federal partners and the private sector.
Among those who resigned were actor Kal Penn; painter and photographer Chuck Close; Jill Udall, the former head of cultural affairs for New Mexico; and entertainment executive Fred Goldring, who helped produce the “Yes We Can” video with musician Will.i.am in support of Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign.
The letter was released Friday morning with signatures from 16 of the 17 members. By afternoon, the 17th member, playwright George C. Wolfe, had also submitted his resignation.
Andrew J. Weinstein, a Democratic activist and donor, said he resigned before Trump’s inauguration in January but does not believe the administration recorded that he had left the committee, so he signed the latest letter to send an additional message.
“Standing by while our president engages in the kind of hateful rhetoric and divisive language that he continues to unleash is unacceptable,” he said.
Weinstein said he and other members of the committee were also furious that Trump sought in his proposed budget to eliminate funding for the National Endowment for the Arts and other cultural programs.
Times staff writer Lauren Rosenblatt contributed to this report.