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Renowned photographer leaves Ford foundation board after Cheney passed over for award

David Hume Kennerly, the Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer, resigned as a trustee of the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Foundation on Tuesday, citing the group’s decision not to give former Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) its annual Medal for Distinguished Public Service as the reason for his departure.

Kennerly, the chief White House photographer during President Ford’s administration, said in a letter to the foundation that the board rejected Cheney’s nomination because some members feared possible repercussions if former President Trump won back the White House in November.

Kennerly said he made the case for Cheney multiple times, but when the executive committee rejected her for the third time, “it became crystal clear to me that something else was going on,” adding, “The process for honoring President Ford by recognizing his virtues in others was being undermined by the same pressures weakening Republican institutions and many conservative leaders.”

“A key reason Liz’s nomination was turned down was your agita about what might happen if the former president is reelected. Some of you raised the specter of being attacked by the Internal Revenue Service and losing the foundation’s tax-exempt status as retribution for selecting Liz for the award,” he wrote in the letter obtained by Politico.

In a statement, the Ford Presidential Foundation’s executive director, Gleaves Whitney, outlined concerns about losing the IRS tax-exempt status, saying it wouldn’t have been “prudent” to give Cheney the award since there were media reports that Cheney might have been mulling a presidential run.

Whitney said, however, that “Cheney meets all the criteria the Ford Presidential Foundation medal signifies—courage, integrity, and passion to serve the American people” and that “The Foundation’s action this year in no way precludes her from serious consideration to receive the medal in a future year.”

Kennerly said in the letter, however, “The historical irony was completely lost on you.”

“Gerald Ford became president, in part, because Richard Nixon had ordered the development of an enemies list and demanded his underlings use the IRS against those listed,” he wrote. “That’s exactly what the executive committee fears will happen if there’s a second coming of Donald Trump.”

Kennerly, in his letter, took aim at the many institutions that he said have cowered in the face of the possibility of Trump’s return to the White House and warned of the danger to democracy.

“You aren’t alone. Many foundations, organizations, corporations, and other entities are caught up in this tidal wave of timidity and fear that’s sweeping this country,” Kennerly wrote. “I mistakenly thought we were better than that. This is the kind of acquiescent behavior that leads to authoritarianism. President Ford most likely would have come out even tougher and said that it leads directly to fascism.”

“Those of you who rejected Liz join many ‘good Republicans’ now aiding and abetting our 45th president by ignoring the genuine menace he presents to our country. America is fortunate to have Liz Cheney still out there on the front lines of freedom vigorously defending our Constitution and democratic way of life. But you don’t have her back.”

“In failing to honor Liz’s courage, resolve, and integrity, you are retreating and hunkering down behind a wall of silence,” he wrote.

Kennerly said he thinks Ford “would have stood alongside Liz Cheney strongly, proudly, and publicly. Gerald Ford wouldn’t have been intimidated by phantom consequences. He would have adopted a ‘damn the torpedoes’ approach as he proceeded to do the right thing.”

He also criticized the executive committee’s decision as short sighted.

“By not selecting Liz as this year’s Medal recipient, the Ford Foundation has missed a critical opportunity to send a message to our fellow citizens here in America and the rest of the world. When Ford was in office people still recall his commitment to our allies, the rule of law, and meeting the challenge posed by tyrannical leaders. By saying that we stand with Liz Cheney in the name of Gerald Ford to support her critical mission in this existential moment we also would have honored his memory. And shown that we fear no evil,” he wrote.

Cheney has been outspoken about the danger that she says a second Trump term would pose to American democracy. She was the vice chair of the House Select Committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, which documented the extensive efforts Trump, and his allies undertook to stay in power after Trump lost the 2020 presidential election.

Kennerly confirmed his resignation in a post on X, saying it was a “painful decision” to resign, “but necessary.”

“I hope more people around the country will follow @Liz_Cheney’s example and speak out about the threat to our democracy. Time to step up,” he added.

Source: The Hill

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