President Trump announced Wednesday he has disbanded two business-advisory councils after at least a dozen members departed because of the president’s response to the Charlottesville, Virginia, clash over a Confederate statue in which a woman was killed after a man rammed a car into a crowd.
The CEOs of Merck, Under Armour and Intel quit the manufacturing council earlier this week, protesting that Trump did not specifically condemn the white supremacist groups that led the rally Saturday, saying “many sides” were to blame. Trump on Monday directly condemned white supremacists, neo-Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan. Then, in a news conference at Trump Tower in New York on Tuesday, he once again said there was blame on “both sides” of the protest. He also commented that there were “some very fine people” on both sides, drawing criticism from some members of his party.
Earlier Wednesday, 3M CEO Inge Thulin and Campbell Soup CEO Denise Morrison left the manufacturing council, which hasn’t met since February.
After CNBC reported the other group, the Strategic and Policy Forum, had decided to disband, Trump tweeted he was ending both councils, “rather than putting pressure on the businesspeople.”
At his news conference Tuesday, Trump said he had “many” CEOs who could replace the departed members.
Merck CEO Ken Frazier tweeted Monday that “as a matter of personal conscience, I feel a responsibility to take a stand against intolerance and extremism.”
Trump reacted strongly in a tweet of his own, saying, “Now that Ken Frazier of Merck Pharma has resigned from President’s Manufacturing Council, he will have more time to LOWER RIPOFF DRUG PRICES!”
Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank said he was “appreciative of the opportunity to have served” but had decided to quit the manufacturing council, saying, “I love our country and our company 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.”
CNBC reported JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon, who was a member of the Strategic and Policy Forum, wrote in a note Wednesday after the council was disbanded that he “strongly disagreed” with Trump’s reaction to the Charlottesville violence.
“It is a leader’s role, in business or government, to bring people together, not tear them apart,” he said.
Another member, General Motors CEO Mary Barra, said the recent events “require that we come together as a country and reinforce values and ideals that unite us — tolerance, inclusion and diversity — and speak against those which divide us — racism, bigotry and any politics based on ethnicity.”
Earlier, the chief executives of three more major companies quit the president’s manufacturing council Wednesday shortly after the Trump tweet.
Jeff Immelt of GE said he notified members of the manufacturing council Wednesday of his decision to quit, saying the committee he joined “had the intention to foster policies that promote American manufacturing and growth.”
“However, given the ongoing tone of the discussion, I no longer feel that this Council can accomplish these goals.”
Conservative pundit Michelle Malkin wrote in her syndicated column that the exiting CEOs had “sided with social justice agitators” who “believe Trump was wrong to condemn violence and hatred on all sides of the political spectrum.”
“Never mind that of the four people arrested after the violent outbreak in Charlottesville, Virginia, this weekend, two were identified with the white nationalist movement and the other two were left-wing “’antifa’ counter-protesters,” she wrote.
She chastised Merck’s Frazier for not taking an “equivalent stand against intolerance and extremism” when the Obama White House invited leaders from “the violence-inciting Black Lives Matter movement” for a forum on policing in July 2016.
“The invitation was a grievous affront to law enforcement officers and their families across the country outraged at the deadly ambushes committed against cops in Dallas and Baton Rouge that summer, along with several other forgotten cop-killings fueled by BLM-linked hate and vengeance,” she wrote.
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., was among the Republican lawmakers who criticized Trump’s reaction to Charlottesville, tweeting that the organizers of the white-nationalist rally were “100 percent to blame” for the death of Heather Heyer after James A. Fields allegedly drove his car into a crowd of anti-racism demonstrators.