Angered by departing CEOs who balked at his recent statements about violence in Charlottesville, President Trump is ending two councils focused on the economy and American firms.
At the onset of his presidency, risk analysts fretted about the negative effect on companies that found themselves singled out for negativity in a tweet by Donald Trump. Now, it seems that being on the firing line for online ire, might actually benefit targeted companies. At the very least, with concerns about corporate diversity and reputational risk running high, there are worse battles to fight than against a President with plummeting poll numbers.
Over the weekend in Charlotte, there were violent clashes between neo-nazis and their protestors. Tensions culminated with one of the protestors being intentionally rammed by a car and killed.
Trump’s critics railed against the President’s lack of condemnation about the murder and, in general, Nazis, the KKK, and the alt-right. A follow-up speech did so, in a less direct way, but not without also defending some at the rally, blaming the protestors, and, of course, trying to affix blame to the media.
In the aftermath corporate CEOs began fleeing President Trump’s American Manufacturing Council. Now comes word that the President has decided to end that advisory group and one other.
From the New York Times: “President Trump’s main council of top corporate leaders disbanded on Wednesday following the president’s controversial remarks in which he equated white nationalist hate groups with the protesters opposing them. Soon after, the president announced on Twitter that he would end his executive councils, ‘rather than put pressure’ on executives.”
The announcement was made, as usual, on Twitter: “Rather than putting pressure on the businesspeople of the Manufacturing Council & Strategy & Policy Forum, I am ending both. Thank you all!”
The Times reports that Stephen Schwarzman, the chief executive of the Blackstone Group and one of Mr. Trump’s closest confidants in the business community, organized a conference call for members of the president’s Strategic and Policy Forum. After considerable debate, it was decided to end the panel.
Earlier in the week, one-by-one, executives jumped ship from the manufacturing committee.
Intel’s chief executive officer Brian Krzanicha blog post on the company's website. “Earlier today, I tendered my resignation from the American Manufacturing Council. I resigned to call attention to the serious harm our divided political climate is causing to critical issues, including the serious need to address the decline of American manufacturing,” he wrote on Aug. 14. “Politics and political agendas have sidelined the important mission of rebuilding America’s manufacturing base.”
“I have already made clear my abhorrence at the recent hate-spawned violence in Charlottesville, and earlier today I called on all leaders to condemn the white supremacists and their ilk who marched and committed violence,” he added. “I resigned because I want to make progress, while many in Washington seem more concerned with attacking anyone who disagrees with them. We should honor, not attack, those who have stood up for equality and other cherished American values. I hope this will change, and I remain willing to serve when it does.”
Krzanicha’s request: “set scoring political points aside and focus on what is best for the nation as a whole.”
“The current environment must change, or else our nation will become a shadow of what it once was and what it still can and should be,” he wrote.
Merck CEO Kenneth Frazier, on Monday, was the first to step down from the council.
“I am resigning from the Presidents American Manufacturing Council. Our country’s strength stems from its diversity and the contributions made by men and women of different faiths, races, sexual orientations, and political beliefs,” he wrote on Twitter. “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. As CEO of Merk, and as a matter of personal conscience, I feel a responsibility to take a stand against intolerance and extremism.”
AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka issued a strongly worded statement regarding his reasons for leaving the council.
“We cannot sit on a council for a president who tolerates bigotry and domestic terrorism,” he wrote. “President Trump’s remarks [later remarks ]repudiate his forced remarks about the Ku Klux Klan and neo-Nazis. We must resign on behalf of America’s working people, who reject all notions of legitimacy of these bigoted groups.”
“It’s clear that President Trump’s manufacturing council was never an effective means for delivering real policy that lifts working families, and his remarks today were the last straw,” he added. “We joined this council with the intent to be a voice for working people and real hope that it would result in positive economic policy, but it has become yet another broken promise on the president’s record. From hollow councils to bad policy and embracing bigotry, the actions of this administration have consistently failed working people.”
Under Armour, Campbell, and 3M, also resigned the Trump panel prior to its disbanding.