Criticizing Donald Trump for his poor response to a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, VA, three chief executives have announced their resignation from the president’s American Manufacturing Council.
Kenneth Frazier, the African-American CEO of pharmaceutical company Merck, was the first to go.
The head of the Fortune 500 company said his departure was meant to “take a stand against intolerance and extremism.”
The businessman’s decision came after President Trump issued a lackadaisical statement condemning violence from last Saturday’s ‘Unite the Right’ rally in Virginia.
Hours before alt-right members were set to gather around a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee in Charlottesville’s Emancipation Park, 20-year old James Fields, Jr., intentionally drove his Dodge Challenger into a crowd of counter-protesters.
Rather than placing the blame squarely on the shoulders of Fields and his bigoted cohorts, Trump opted to lament violence on “many, many sides.” His statement came across as defensive, diverging from its topic to a self-aggrandizing boast about how his administration has brought back the automotive industry.
Blowback came immediately, as Republican senators like Orrin Hatch (UT) and Cory Gardner (CO) demanded that evil be called by its name.
Despite issuing a stronger rebuke of racism, neo-Nazis, and the Ku Klux Klan yesterday, Frazier still opted to give up his post.
Merck’s headman was quickly joined by the chief executives of Intel Corp and Under Armour Inc in leaving the American Manufacturing Council.
Writing on Twitter, Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank said, “We are saddened by #Charlottesville. There is no place for racism or discrimination in this world. We choose love & unity.”
Ten hours later – and facing mounting public pressure – Plank announced he was following Frazier’s lead.
“I love our county and our company and will continue to focus my efforts on inspiring every person that they can do anything through the power of sport which promotes unity, diversity and inclusion,” Plank wrote.
Soon afterward, in a blog post, Intel Corp CEO Brian Krzanich said he was choosing to leave the council “to call attention to the serious harm our divided political climate is causing to critical issues, including the serious need to address the decline of American manufacturing.
“Politics and political agendas have sidelined the important mission of rebuilding America’s manufacturing base.”
Before stepping aside from the council, Krzanich had Tweeted, “There should be no hesitation in condemning hate speech or white supremacy by name.”
Following the slew of announcements and resignations, the 12.5 million-strong AFL-CIO said it was considering pulling its representative form the advisory body, too.
While both Krzanich and Plank seemed to hold back from ripping Trump directly, Frazier had no such reservations.
Now that Ken Frazier of Merck Pharma has resigned from President's Manufacturing Council,he will have more time to LOWER RIPOFF DRUG PRICES!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 14, 2017
“America’s leaders must honor our fundamental views by clearly rejecting expressions of hatred, bigotry, and group supremacy, which run counter to the American ideal that all people are created equal,” he said.
Although it took President Trump nearly three days to rebuke neo-Nazis and the Ku Klax Klan in Charlottesville, he attacked Frazier on the Twitter the same night, saying the CEO’s resignation would leave him with “more time to lower rip off drug prices.”
The BBC notes that Charlottesville isn’t the first controversy to cause CEOs to flee the president’s advisory councils.
Former Uber executive Travis Kalanick – himself no stranger to criticism – left the Business Advisory Council to protest the administration’s immigration policies.
And, following Trump’s decision to abandon the Paris Climate Change Agreement, Tesla CEO Elon Musk and Walt Disney’s chief executive, Robert Iger, left the President’s Strategic and Policy Forum.
Musk also left the manufacturing council.