CEOs abandon Trump over Charlottesville

By Teresa Welsh

McClatchy Washington Bureau

Four CEOs quit Donald Trump’s American Manufacturing Council over his response to a deadly rally of white supremacists in Charlottesville — and that was before the president renewed the controversy Tuesday by furiously reverting to his original position that the counterprotesters share the blame for the violence.

“What about the alt-left that came charging at the, as you say, the alt-right?” Trump said at a news conference in New York on Tuesday afternoon. “Do they have any semblance of guilt?”

After that, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka joined the CEOs of Merck, Under Armour, Intel and the Alliance for American Manufacturing in leaving the council.

“We cannot sit on a council for a president who tolerates bigotry and domestic terrorism,” Trumka said in a statement. “President Trump’s remarks today repudiate his forced remarks yesterday about the KKK and neo-Nazis. We must resign on behalf of America’s working people, who reject all notion of legitimacy of those bigoted groups.”

Trump has been widely criticized for his failure to immediately and forcefully condemn the white supremacists and neo-Nazis who rallied in Charlottesville on Saturday to protest the removal of a Confederate statue. Counterprotesters also demonstrated.

While both Democrats and Republicans swiftly rejected violence perpetrated by white supremacists that left one woman dead, Trump said Saturday that “many sides” were to blame. On Sunday, the White House released an unattributed statement saying that “of course” the president rejected hate groups.

Merck CEO Kenneth Frazier announced Monday that he was leaving Trump’s council to “take a stand against intolerance and extremism.” Within minutes, Trump attacked Frazier, who is African-American, for his decision and what the president called Merck’s “ripoff drug prices.”

Later Monday, Trump caved to political pressure and, reading from prepared remarks, condemned “the KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists and other hate groups.” But those comments weren’t enough for Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank and Intel CEO Brian Krzanich, who announced they would also be abandoning Trump’s council, created in January to advise the president on increasing jobs in the manufacturing sector.

Trump did not attack those executives by name as he had with Frazier, but said on Twitter Tuesday morning that those leaving the White House group were “grandstanding” and that he had many other people who would participate on the council in their place.

Just moments after that Trump tweet on Tuesday, Alliance for American Manufacturing CEO Scott Paul tweeted his resignation, saying it was “the right thing for me to do.”

Previously, Tesla CEO Elon Musk left the council after Trump abandoned the international climate agreement. Musk also stepped down from the President’s Strategic and Policy Forum on which he was participating because of Trump’s decision to leave the Paris accord. Bob Iger of Disney also left that group over the climate agreement.