Private members from the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities (PCAH), including actor and producer Kal Penn and Ovation TV chairman Ken Solomon, resigned on Friday (August 18) in protest of U.S. president Donald Trump’s comments regarding the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia.
The strongly-worded resignation letter, which can be seen here, reads in part: “The Administration’s refusal to quickly and unequivocally condemn the cancer of hatred only further emboldens those who wish America ill.”
“Ignoring your hateful rhetoric would have made us complicit in your words and actions,” it continues. “We took a patriotic oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.”
Other members of the committee include visual artist Chuck Close, author Jhumpa Lahiri, singer/songwriter and former Starbucks EVP and general counsel Paula Boggs, and media entrepreneur Fred Goldring. The committee’s honorary chair is U.S. first lady Melania Trump.
The letter also cites the Trump administration’s elimination of funding for arts and culture agencies, as well as its pulling out of the Paris climate change agreement as bones of contention for the signatory members.
The committee, originally established in 1982 by then-president Ronald Reagan, is designed to advise the current administration on matters concerning arts and culture. The private members resigning were chosen by previous U.S. president Barack Obama, as the current administration has not yet assembled its own private member roster. As of this writing, all of the members that have resigned are still listed on the committee’s official website.
Most recently, Penn has served as host of the Fox game show Superhuman and has also hosted programs for National Geographic and Discovery Channel.
The controversy stems from President Trump’s remarks – both immediately following the chaos in Charlottesville stemming from clashes between white nationalists and counter-protesters, and during a press conference held by the president last week (August 15) – that placed blame for the violence over August 12 on both sides. One anti-racism protester, Heather Heyer, died when a car plowed through the scene of a protest. Also on that day, two Virginia state troopers, Berke MM Bates and H Jay Cullen, died in a helicopter crash outside of Charlottesville. The helicopter had been stationed to the area to assist in monitoring the situation but was then diverted.