Famed photographer quits Ford board over Liz Cheney snub

Last updated on April 10, 2024

A Pulitzer Prize-winning political photographer resigned Tuesday from the board of the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Foundation, blasting the group for cowardice in rejecting Trump critic Liz Cheney as the recipient of its top yearly award.

David Hume Kennerly claimed in a letter to fellow trustees that Cheney’s nomination for the Gerald R. Ford Medal for Distinguished Public Service was nixed largely out of fear that Trump would retaliate against the organization if he’s reelected. Cheney, herself a trustee, was rejected three separate times, Kennerly wrote, as other potential honorees declined the award.

Gleaves Whitney, the foundation’s executive director, said in a statement that the foundation’s executive committee, guided by legal counsel, believed it was not “prudent” to give the medal to Cheney given her flirtations with a presidential run.

Giving her the medal during the election cycle, Whitney said, “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 White House photographer and is longtime foundation trustee, attacked that argument in his letter: “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.”

“If the foundation that bears the name of Gerald R. Ford won’t stand up to this real threat to our democracy,” he added, “who will?”

A fellow board member, speaking on condition of anonymity to be candid, said the board was “really terrified” of losing their IRS tax-exempt status if they had given the award to Cheney. “They’re really really really concerned. It’s insanity,” said the board member.

Asked for further comment, Kennerly confirmed the authenticity of the letter and said “it did not make me happy writing it,” while Whitney said “the trustees are meeting” to determine next steps for the Ford Medal.

A spokesperson for Cheney didn’t respond to a request for comment.