Kal Penn Reveals Why Arts and Humanities Committee Resigned

Dimitrios Kambouris/WireImage; AFP/Getty Images
Kal Penn (left), President Donald Trump

The actor slammed President Trump's response to Charlottesville as "the worst of who we are."

Actor Kal Penn appeared Tuesday on CNN's New Day to speak about the President's Committee on the Arts and the Humanities, which he was part of before the group resigned from the current administration last week, in the wake of Donald Trump's Charlottesville response.

Penn explained that the people who stayed on after the president's inauguration decided to remain because they felt that the work they were doing was mostly nonpartisan. Members of the committee were selected by former President Barack Obama and were appointed to serve until they were replaced. He added that they were working on a program that is in 18 or 19 states called Turn Around Arts that has now been moved to the Kennedy Center.

"Obviously, we disagree with the Republican agenda," said Penn, highlighting Trump's transgender military ban remarks and his stances on the Affordable Care Act and the Paris climate change agreement. He said that despite their political differences, the committee felt it was their role to focus on arts, education and cultural diplomacy.

"This is very much a cultural issue," said Penn of the events that occurred in Virginia. "I think the response to Charlottesville — his response — was the worst of who we are. And we just felt like that was not who we are at all and we are better than that, and this was an opportunity to show that."

New Day co-host Chris Cuomo asked Penn why he didn't just stay in the administration to try to change it from within and Penn responded, "This is largely a dysfunctional government, period."

He said the committee thought resigning en masse would send a strong message of who the majority of Americans really are: "If government is so dysfunctional and you can't get anything done, what if we focus on things outside of government to actually do those things together?"

"Look, you're dealing with a tiny-fingered vulgarian who loves to tweet crazy things as his way of getting policy done?" added Penn, referencing a Trump insult that originated in Spy magazine. "Come on. We're better than that."

The President's Committee on the Arts & the Humanities resigned on Friday in a letter that addressed Trump's comments that "both sides" were to blame for the violence that occurred at a white supremacy rally in Charlottesville: "The false equivalencies you push cannot stand." The first letter of every paragraph in the note spelled out "Resist."

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