Trump says CEOs who quit his council are 'grandstanders'

Joanna Estrada
August 19, 2017

Unilever CEO Paul Polman wrote on Twitter, "Thanks @Merck Ken Frazier for strong leadership to stand up for the moral values that made this country what it is".

The AFL-CIO, a federation of labor unions that represent 12.5 million workers, said it was considering pulling its representative on the committee.

About four hours later, Trump delivered a statement from the White House in which he denounced the hate groups at the center of Saturday's violence.

The fallout continued Monday night as Kevin Plank, chief executive of athletic equipment maker Under Armour Inc., announced in a tweet that he was stepping down as well "to focus on inspiring & uniting through power of sport".

Trump, though, has the loudest voice on the political landscape, said Norm Ornstein, resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and contributing editor at the National Review and The Atlantic. "However, Under Armour engages in innovation and sports, not politics".

Under Armour does not want to anger Steph Curry again.

After neo-Nazis and white supremacists brawled with counter-protesters in the streets of Charlottesville on Saturday, Trump spoke against violence "on many sides - on many sides". "As CEO of Merck, and as a matter of personal conscience, I feel a responsibility to take a stand against intolerance and extremism".

First it was the leader of a major USA pharmaceutical, then the CEO of an athletic gear company, and before the day had ended, the chief executive of a $170 billion tech giant.

Merck shares rose 0.8 percent in morning trading on the New York Stock Exchange, in line with the wider market. Trump eventually made a statement condemning bigotry Monday afternoon at a press conference.

Frazier declined to comment further.

This isn't the first time Trump has clashed this year with high-profile CEOs over his handling of policy matters.

Meanwhile, other executives stated their support for Frazier.

But in the intervening months, industry leaders have grown increasingly confident that any governmental actions won't harm their business models.

Plank and Krzanich, who are white, referred to the charged atmosphere in the US.

Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., tweeted, "Mr. President - we must call evil by its name".

Frazier, who in the past has donated to both Republicans and Democrats, sat beside Trump in February when the president had a roundtable discussion with pharmaceutical company executives.

So who's left on the manufacturing council?

Former Uber Technologies Inc CEO Travis Kalanick quit the business advisory council in February amid pressure from activists and employees who opposed the administration's immigration policies.

The White House did not immediately answer a request to elaborate. Trump initially bemoaned violence on "many sides", though on Monday he described members of the KKK, neo-Nazis and white supremacists as "criminals and thugs".

The president's critics wasted little time in noting that Frazier is African-American, meaning Trump lashed out at him amid the recent tensions fueled by pro-Nazi and white supremacist groups.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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