UPDATED with letter from Howard Rodman below, 1:25 PM: Saying that President Donald Trump’s latest comments on the recent violence in Charlottesville, VA, have disgraced the United States, the WGA West has issued a statement today:
“The Writers Guild of America West believes in free speech – even from Nazis and white supremacists. But we completely disavow their views, which reflect the worst stains of American history, a history that still lives through racism, prejudice and systematic inequality of opportunity. We demand that violence in support of such views be properly punished. President Trump legitimizes hate speech and violence, and disgraces our nation.”
Trump initially blamed “many sides” for causing the violence at a Ku Klux Klan and neo-Nazi rally Saturday, failing to mention that it was a white supremacist who drove a car into a crowd of counter-protesters, killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer and injuring 19 others. On Monday, after receiving near-universal criticism, he amended his comments, calling the KKK, neo-Nazis and white supremacists “repugnant.” But on Tuesday, he doubled down on his initial comments, blaming “both sides” for the violence – including the “alt left” and anti-fascist counter-protesters.
In a letter to members, outgoing WGA West president Howard Rodman said Trump “should resign.” It reads:
Writing in 1915, Theodore Roosevelt reminded us that Dante ‘reserved a special place of infamy in the inferno for those base angels who dared side neither with evil nor with good,’ Rodman wrote. “It’s a caution that hits with shocking immediacy when the President of the United States can look at a mob of Nazis and white supremacists and say, ‘I’ve condemned many different groups. … You also had some very fine people on both sides.’
As a labor union, and as a guild of those whose job is to craft the narratives of our time, we refuse to ‘side neither with evil nor with good.’ The issue transcends politics: it is, rather, a fight for the soul of our nation. By what he says and what he will not say, the President encourages the violent and murderous acts of the worst among us. In declining to condemn in unambiguous terms those who believe the white race deserves to be paramount above all others, our President – and his enablers – have abdicated any claim to moral leadership. He should resign.
Leadership needs to come from us: collectively as a guild, and individually as writers. Let’s take this awful moment in our republic’s history as a reminder of the power of our union, the power of words – and of the necessity for using them in wise and crucial ways. It is time more than ever to take heart from James Baldwin: ‘You write in order to change the world, knowing perfectly well that you probably can’t…The world changes according to the way people see it, and if you alter, even by a millimeter the way people look at reality, then you can change it. If there is no moral question, there is no reason to write.
On Sunday, the WGA East issued a statement condemning the violence, calling on Trump to condemn white supremacy. “To proclaim that white people are superior to anyone else for any reason or that violence in defense of such a hateful notion is repugnant and intolerable. The American people do not want neo-Nazis and Klansmen to dictate policy to the White House. We believe the time has come time to put an end to the vile narrative that on Saturday cost a life in Virginia and wounded many more. President Trump must stand up and directly condemn white supremacy and the domestic terrorism it engenders.”