The Nazis were the last straw for state Sen. Richard Cohen.
Cohen, a St. Paul DFLer and an Obama-era appointee to the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities, joined the rest of its membership Friday in a group resignation. Cohen had stayed at his post through President Donald Trump’s inauguration, and through his proposal to eliminate federal funding for the arts and humanities.
Until the president got around to replacing them, Cohen figured, members could continue promoting and protecting arts programs.
But then Trump suggested that “many sides” shared blame for the white nationalist march through Charlottesville, Va., that ended with one of the marchers ramming a car into a crowd of protesters, killing a woman and injuring 19 more. After Trump suggested that the neo-Nazi march included “some very fine people,” the remaining members of the arts committee agreed it was time to resign — joining the members of two business roundtables that also cut ties with the Trump White House this week.
“My father was a lieutenant commander in the Navy during World War II ... he fought the Nazis, along with everybody else,” said Cohen, an early supporter of former President Barack Obama, who named him to the arts council in 2009. “It’s just remarkable that somebody could defend hanging out with Nazis and Ku Klux Klan members. It’s just stunning.”
Cohen was the only elected official on the council, and one of the few selected from the Midwest to serve on a committee crowded with Hollywood, Broadway and coastal arts communities. On Friday, Cohen and 15 other committee members submitted their letter of resignation.
“Reproach and censure in the strongest possible terms are necessary following your support of the hate groups and terrorists who killed and injured fellow Americans in Charlottesville,” the members wrote. “Art is about inclusion. The Humanities include a vibrant free press. You have attacked both.”
In a final artistic flourish, the first letter of each paragraph of the letter spelled out a parting shot: R-E-S-I-S-T.