Saturday, August 19, 2017  

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Entire President's Arts Council Quits  08/19 10:23

   NEW YORK (AP) -- Another presidential advisory committee is breaking up.

   Actor Kal Penn, artist Chuck Close and the entire membership of the 
President's Committee on the Arts and the 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 

   The White House said Trump had already decided against renewing the advisory 
committee for budgetary reasons.

   "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 month it was decided that President Trump will not renew the 
executive order for the President's Committee on the Arts and the Humanities 
(PCAH), which expires later this year," the White House said in a statement 
attributed to an unnamed spokesperson. "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 "merely redirects funding" from federal 
cultural agencies that report directly to the president, Congress and taxpayers.

   "These cultural agencies do tremendous work and they will continue to engage 
in these important projects," the statement said.

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

   Friday's exodus heightened the arts world's contentious relationship with 
Trump. The president struggled to find entertainers, many of whom backed 
Hillary Clinton in 2016, to perform at his inaugural gala, and Kennedy Center 
honorees for lifetime achievement have already said they will not attend the 
White House reception in December.

   As president, Trump has also recommended defunding the National Endowment 
for the Arts and National Endowment for the Humanities.

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


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