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David Hume Kennerly resigns from Gerald Ford foundation board over refusal to honor Liz Cheney with top award

By Avery Lotz and Shania Shelton, CNN

(CNN) — David Hume Kennerly, a Pulitzer-prize-winning photographer who served in the Ford White House, announced his resignation on Tuesday from the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Foundation board over its “short-sighted” rejection of former Rep. Liz Cheney for the organization’s yearly award.

“Today I am resigning from the Gerald R. Ford board as a trustee. If the foundation that bears the name of Gerald R. Ford won’t stand up to this real threat to our democracy, who will?” Kennerly said in a letter to members of the executive committee.

Kennerly slammed Ford’s namesake organization for its choice not to honor Cheney, an outspoken critic of former President Donald Trump, with the Gerald R. Ford Medal for Distinguished Public Service.

“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, which was first reported by Politico.

He continued, “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. That’s exactly what the executive committee fears will happen if there’s a second coming of Donald Trump.“

Gleaves Whitney, executive director of the Ford Presidential Foundation, said in a statement that the foundation’s executive committee, “guided by legal counsel, concluded that it was not prudent to award the 2024 Ford medal to Liz Cheney.”

“At the time the award was being discussed, it was being publicly reported that Cheney was under active consideration for a presidential run by No Labels,” the statement said, referring to the group that had dabbled with fielding a third-party ticket only to abandon the idea last week. “Exercising its fiduciary responsibility, the executive committee concluded that giving the Ford medal to Cheney in the 2024 election cycle might be construed as a political statement and thus expose the Foundation to the legal risk of losing its nonprofit status with the IRS.”

Kennerly, who served as Ford’s chief photographer and provided an intimate glimpse into the White House, claimed in the letter that Cheney, who also serves on the board of the Ford Presidential Foundation, was rejected for the award three times, despite suggesting her for the honor multiple times.

“After two people you selected instead of her demurred, I weighed in again with what I thought was a compelling presentation to some of the nominators where I reiterated Liz’s merits. When you rejected her again in favor of a third person, it became crystal clear to me that something else was going on.”

The former Wyoming congresswoman has criticized Trump on multiple occasions. Cheney was one of just two Republicans on the House select committee investigating the January 6 insurrection and Trump’s responsibility for the insurrection.

She lost her post in House Republican leadership and, ultimately, her seat in Congress after publicly rejecting for months Trump’s lie that he won the 2020 presidential election and voting to impeach him following the January 6, 2021, US Capitol attack.

Cheney said in December that she will do “whatever I have to do” to stop the former president from returning to the White House.

“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,” Kennerly wrote. “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.”

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