15, August 2017
Two more senior executives quit US President Donald Trump’s business advisory panel, after Trump failed to immediately denounce white supremacists over a violent rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. In a strong rebuke to Trump, first the leader of one of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies and then the CEO of an athletic gear company and finally the chief executive of a $170 billion tech giant resigned from a business panel led by the president.
“America’s leaders must honor our fundamental values by clearly rejecting expressions of hatred, bigotry and group supremacy, which runs counter to the American ideal that all people are created equal,” tweeted Merck & Co Inc CEO Kenneth Frazier on Monday. Trump in response swiftly tweeted that at least Frazier will now “have more time to LOWER RIPOFF DRUG PRICES!”
According to the Executive Leadership Council, Frazier is a highly respected executive and one of only four African Americans to head a Fortune 500 company. Within hours, Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank resigned from the same panel, saying his company “engages in innovation and sports, not politics.” Although Plank did not specifically mention Trump or Charlottesville, he said his company will focus on promoting “unity, diversity and inclusion” through sports.
Intel CEO Brian Krzanich however urged leaders to condemn “white supremacists and their ilk,” saying many in Washington “seem more concerned with attacking anyone who disagrees with them.” Under heavy bipartisan pressure, Trump finally declared that “racism is evil” and singled out white supremacists and Ku Klux Klan for a violent rally in Charlottesville.
“Racism is evil and those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs, including the KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists and other hate groups that are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans,” Trump said Monday from the White House. The three CEOs are not the first executives to resign from advisory councils serving Trump.
In June, Tesla CEO Elon Musk resigned from the manufacturing council and after US withdrew from the Paris climate agreement, Walt Disney Co. Chairman and CEO Bob Iger resigned for the same reason from the president’s Strategic and Policy Forum. William Galston, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, said he could not “think of a parallel example” of any president responding as viciously as Trump to a CEO departing an advisory council.
“Usually, certain niceties are observed to smooth over a rupture,” said Galston, who served as a domestic policy aide in the Clinton administration. “We’ve learned that as president, Mr. Trump is behaving exactly as he did as a candidate,” Galston said. “He knows only one mode: When attacked, hit back harder.”
On Saturday, thousands of white supremacists, KKK members and neo-Nazis descended on Charlottesville for a “Unite the Right” rally. The march soon turned violent when a 20-year-old man plowed a vehicle into a group of anti-hate demonstrators protesting against the white supremacist rally, killing a woman and injuring 19 others.
Trump came under fire for initially blaming the violence on “many sides.” Democrats and Republicans alike called on the president to “call the evil by its name.” In his remarks on Saturday, Trump had failed to mention white nationalists, neo-Nazis, the Ku Klux Klan or any other groups that participated in the rally.