Members of a White House arts panel resign en masse in protest of Trump

Key Points
  • A panel advising President Donald Trump on cultural issues has resigned in protest.
  • The rebuke follows backlash from corporate America, as business leaders left Trump advisory panels this week before the groups were disbanded.
White House arts panel members resign
White House arts panel members resign

Members of a committee advising President Donald Trump on cultural issues have resigned in protest of the president's response to violence at a white nationalist rally in Virginia.

The rebuke from the President's Committee on the Arts and the Humanities follows backlash this week from business leaders, many of whom stepped down from Trump advisory councils before they were disbanded.

"We cannot sit idly by, the way that your West Wing advisors have, without speaking out against your words and actions," the members from entertainment and the arts wrote in a Friday letter to Trump.

The committee, first created in 1982 under President Ronald Reagan, is an official part of the White House, unlike the business councils.

The 16 members who signed the letter, appointed by President Barack Obama, include actor Kal Penn and artist Chuck Close. The panel supports arts programs in the U.S. and cultural delegations abroad.

"Ignoring your hateful rhetoric would have made us complicit in your words and actions. We took a patriotic oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic," the committee said, in the resignation letter. "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."

On Saturday, a car allegedly driven by a suspected white nationalist rammed into a crowd of counterprotesters in Charlottesville, Virginia, killing one woman and injuring many others. It followed skirmishes between the torch-bearing white supremacists and people demonstrating against them.

In a fiery Tuesday news conference, Trump appeared to suggest a moral equivalency between the groups, saying good and violent people gathered in both groups and "both sides" are to blame for the violence. He also contended that some of the people who marched with the white nationalists were not bad.