Three CEOs resign from Trump's American Manufacturing Council

Isaac Cain
August 19, 2017

One of the US's most high-profile African American executives quit Donald Trump's business advisory panel on Monday, citing "a responsibility to take a stand against violence and extremism" and triggering an nearly immediate attack from the president.

The decision came after critics questioned Trump's decision not to call out white supremacists in a statement condemning the violence that erupted Saturday.

Two days later and after intense criticism, Trump on Monday called out the KKK, neo-Nazis and white supremacists as "evil" and "hate groups" that are "repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans".

But he hadn't forgotten about Merck. In the midst of one of the drug industry's biggest conferences in January, Trump accused the pharmaceutical industry of "getting away with murder", fueling speculation that he might take action on drug prices that the industry has long fought - such as allowing the government to bid on prices in the Medicare program.

I joined the American Manufacturing Council because I believed it was important for Under Armour to have an active seat at the table and represent our industry, ? a NY daily quoted Plank, as saying. But they also said they'd stay on the council so they could advise the government on ways to strengthen manufacturing.

Frazier's move was "a profile in business courage", said John Paluszek, a former senior counsel at the public relations firm Ketchum.

At least 17 members remain on the council, nine of whom have said this week that they are staying. "That's why I think an element of courage comes into the discussion".

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The president came under fire on Saturday after he said both sides were to blame for the violence that occurred at the rally.

"America's leaders must honor our fundamental values by clearly rejecting expressions of hatred, bigotry, and group supremacy, which run counter to the American ideal that all people are created equal", Frazier said in a statement.

"I feel a responsibility to take a stand against intolerance and extremism", he said.

William Galston, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, said he couldn't "think of a parallel example" of any president responding as viciously as Trump to a CEO departing an advisory council. "Why not for white supremacists?"

By contrast, CEOs who quit the manufacturing council for political reasons risk a barrage of angry tweets from Trump and may have less leverage to pursue their corporate goals in Washington down the road.

General Electric Corp. said it was a "proudly inclusive company" that has "no tolerance for hate, bigotry or racism". "With more than 100,000 employees in the United States, it is important for GE to participate in the discussion on how to drive growth and productivity in the USA, therefore, Jeff Immelt will remain on the Presidential Committee on American Manufacturing while he is the Chairman of GE". "Politics and political agendas have sidelined the important mission of rebuilding America's manufacturing base". "These were white supremacists and this was domestic terrorism".

The response from the president was swift, throwing a jab at Frazier, a highly respected executive and one of only four African Americans to head a Fortune 500 company, according to the Executive Leadership Council.

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