Three CEOs have now quit White House posts in protest of Trump’s Charlottesville responseOn August 15, 2017 by Maybell
Three CEOs have resigned from Donald Trump’s manufacturing advisory council to register their disapproval of the president’s weak initial response to last weekend’s violent white supremacist gathering in Charlottesville.
Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank and Intel CEO Brian Krzacnich both announced their decisions in separate statements Monday night, following in the footsteps of Merck CEO Kenneth Frazier that morning.
Several other corporate leaders have joined Frazier in speaking out about the hate and bigotry of last weekend’s violent white supremacist gathering in Charlottesville.
But most other council members stopped short of actually quitting or even criticizing the president directly.
Frazier, who’s African-American, slammed Trump’s seeming refusal to explicitly name white supremacists and neo-nazis in his first couple statements on the violence on Saturday. The rally, the biggest meeting of hate groups in decades, culminated in a vehicular terror attack that killed one antiracism counter-protester and injured nearly two dozen.
“As CEO of Merck and as a matter of personal conscience, I feel a responsibility to take a stand against extremism,” he wrote in a statement.
The act of protest drew a predictably heated response from the thin-skinned tweeter-in-chief who slammed the pharmaceutical exec on Twitter within an hour of the announcement and then again later in the day.
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
Milquetoast statements aside, Frazier’s fellow council members didn’t take sides in the tiff for the most part. That may change as public pressure mounts.
One of the few exceptions was Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank, who said he was resigning from the council late on Monday.
“I love our country and company,” Plank said. “I am stepping down from the council to focus on inspiring & uniting through power of sport which promotes unity, diversity, and inclusion.”
Plank notably avoided any direct mention of the president.
The sportswear exec saw the consumer power of Trump’s detractors firsthand when he praised the president’s business agenda in an interview earlier this year. The resulting outcry hurt the brand’s image and forced Plank to take out an apology ad, but he remained on the council.
“Many in Washington seem more concerned with attacking anyone who disagrees with them.”
Hours after Plank’s announcement, Intel CEO Brian Krzanich added his resignation to the pile late Monday night. He essentially claimed that the council had become too politicized to be of any use.
“I resigned to call attention to the serious harm our divided political climate is causing to critical issues,” Krzacnich said in his statement. “I resigned because I want to make progress, while many in Washington seem more concerned with attacking anyone who disagrees with them.”
Intel has a tense history with Trump’s campaign and subsequent administration. Last summer, Krzanich cancelled a planned a fundraiser for the then-nominee after public pushback. He was also one of many CEOs to sign a brief opposing Trump’s first travel ban earlier this year.
In a tweet earlier on Monday, Krzanich called out Trump for dancing around any mention of white supremacists or neo-nazis in his first statements on the violence this weekend.
The strongest statement from any other council member came from Richard Trumka, head of the the nation’s largest federation of Unions, AFL-CIO, who said the workers group was “assessing” its role on the board and questioned its “effectiveness.”
“While the AFL-CIO will remain a powerful voice for the freedoms of working people,” he said in a statement. “There are real questions into the effectiveness of this council to deliver real policy that lifts working families.”
Heads of GE, Dow Chemical, Campbell Soup, and International Paper all released separate statements condemning bigotry and, to varying vague extents, criticizing Trump’s response to it but opted to stay on the board — at least for the time being.
This isn’t the first time controversy has pushed corporate honchos to vacate advisory posts with Trump’s White House. Former Uber CEO Travis Kalanick left the tech council earlier this year following a massive boycott campaign, and Elon Musk left in protest of Trump’s decision to pull out of the Paris climate agreement.
The insanity of the Trump era has prompted a newfound willingness among consumers to vote with their pocketbooks, and boycott campaigns targeting the president and those who associate with him have flourished.