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Citing Trump remarks, entire president’s arts council quits

Another presidential advisory committee appears to be breaking up.

Actor Kal Penn, artist Chuck Close and the entire membership of the President’s Committee On the Arts and 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 dead.

“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 week, two business advisory councils were disbanded as members left in protest.

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 Edward M. Kennedy. All were appointed by President Barack Obama.

The White House did not respond to a request for comment Friday.

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