CEOs quit Trump’s manufacturing council amid backlash over Charlottesville response

The CEOs of athletic wear manufacturer Under Armour Inc., computer chip maker Intel Corp. and pharmaceutical company Merck & Co. resigned Monday from the White House’s American Manufacturing Council as President Donald Trump was being assailed for failing to quickly condemn white supremacists for deadly violence at a rally Saturday in Charlottesville, Va.

“Politics and political agendas have sidelined the important mission of rebuilding America’s manufacturing base”, he said in a statement which underlined his “abhorrence” over the violence in Charlottesville.

“We should honor – not attack – those who have stood up for equality and other cherished American values”.

But by the time he arrived at midmorning, it was clear all other messages would be drowned out until he said more about Charlottesville.

A White House official downplayed the importance of the manufacturing council and a separate policy and strategy forum featuring corporate leaders.

The political PAC maintained by Merck and funded through donations from Merck employees made over $1.1 million in candidate contributions during the 2016 campaign – but did not contribute to Trump or his Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton, according to documents filed with the Federal Elections Commission.

That appeared to be a reference to Trump’s statement over the weekend blaming violence “on many sides” after neo-Nazis and white nationalists clashed with counter-protesters.

Austan Goolsbee, the former chief economist for President Barack Obama, said the departures suggest the president’s response to the violence in Charlottesville could alienate those who work for the companies, and those who buy the products and services that they sell.

“For every CEO that drops out of the Manufacturing Council, I have many to take their place”.

At the time, the White House said the president would be “meeting with some of the world’s most successful and creative business leaders to share their experiences and gain their insights”. “Americans expect their political leaders to denounce white supremacists by name”.

Democrats and Republicans have attacked the Republican president for waiting too long to address the violence, and for saying “many sides” were involved rather than explicitly condemning white-supremacist marchers widely seen as sparking the melee.

Now, Mr. Levick said, his clients, which include Fortune 500 companies, are starting to feel safer about speaking out.

Merck CEO Kenneth Frazier left the council early Monday after saying Trump did not condemn white supremacists strongly enough in his original statement.

President Donald Trump lashed out at Kenneth C. Frazier, the chairman and chief executive officer of Merck, for explaining that Frazier was resigning from President Trump’s American Manufacturing Council.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions is telling ABC’s “Good Morning America” that the death of a woman in Charlottesville, Virginia, “does meet the definition of domestic terrorism in our statute”.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk resigned from the council after Mr. Trump announced the USA would withdraw from the Paris climate agreement.

They have also loudly opposed him on immigration and his decision to pull the United States out of the Paris climate agreement.