WASHINGTON, (Reuters) – One of the U.S. State Department’s three science envoys publicly resigned yesterday, the latest in a wave of defections over President Donald Trump’s response to a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Daniel Kammen, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley, said in a letter posted on his Twitter account that Trump had failed to condemn white supremacists and neo-Nazis, part of “a broader pattern of behavior that enables sexism and racism, and disregards the welfare of all Americans, the global community and the planet.” (http://bit.ly/2vpEUPn)
Trump told reporters last week that “both sides” were to blame for the violence between white supremacists and counter protesters in Virginia on Aug. 12, and said there were “very fine people” among those who participated in the white nationalist rally.
The science envoys serve as unpaid volunteers and engage with government and non-government science officials around the world.
In his letter, Kammen also criticized Trump’s decision to leave the Paris Climate Accord. The first letters of each paragraph spell out the word “IMPEACH.”
Kammen and the White House did not respond to requests for comment. State Department spokeswoman Julia Mason said Kammen “made a personal decision to resign.”
“We appreciate his dedicated service to U.S. scientific diplomacy,” Mason said.
Science envoys typically serve for one year. According to his LinkedIn profile, Kammen served as an envoy since August 2016.
Margaret Leinen, director of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego and Thomas Lovejoy, an ecologist at George Mason University in Virginia, still serve as State Department science envoys, Mason said. They did not respond to requests for comment.
Peter Hotez, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at the Baylor College of Medicine in Texas, served as envoy in 2015 and 2016 and said he has been in contact with the State Department about possibly returning. He would be willing to do so even after Trump’s post-Charlottesville statements, he told Reuters on Wednesday.
“Despite those comments I think it’s important to be willing to serve the United States,” Hotez said.
Trump’s comments sparked a wave of defections of chief executives from White House advisory councils, leading to their disbanding, and earned condemnations from Republicans and Democrats alike.
Similar to Kammen, members of the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities who resigned en masse last week used the first letter of each paragraph in their resignation letter to spell out “RESIST,” a rallying cry for Trump’s opponents.