- Scott Paul resigns on Tuesday after three high-profile departures on Monday
- AFL-CIO steps down following Trump’s latest remarks on Charlottesville
The bosses of some of the world’s biggest companies are facing mounting pressure to quit Donald Trump’s high-profile business advisory council as two more people resigned on Tuesday in the wake of the president’s handling of the fatal Charlottesville protests.
Three executives quit the Manufacturing Jobs Initiative on Monday following Trump’s failure to immediately condemn white nationalists for the weekend of violence that left one woman dead and 19 injured.
Another member, Scott Paul, the president of the Alliance for American Manufacturing, quit on Tuesday morning. Paul said: “It’s the right thing for me to do.”
And late on Tuesday, America’s biggest coalition of trade unions resigned its seat on Trump’s manufacturing council in response to his controversial remarks at Trump Tower.
The American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) was the fifth member of the panel to quit over the president’s handling of events in Charlottesville.
Richard Trumka, the AFL-CIO president, said in a statement that Trump’s extraordinary defense of far-right marchers had undermined his own “forced remarks” at the White House on Monday, when he condemned groups such as the Ku Klux Klan. “We cannot sit on a council for a president who tolerates bigotry and domestic terrorism,” said Trumka, whose group claims to represent 12 million workers and retirees.
Walmart’s CEO, Doug McMillon, issued a strongly worded rebuke of Trump for missing “a critical opportunity to help bring our country together by unequivocally rejecting the appalling actions of white supremacists”.
Walmart said McMillon, who sits on another of Trump’s panels, the Strategic and Policy Forum, would not resign his position because the company wanted to “stay engaged to try to influence decisions in a positive way and help bring people together”. Several other companies have issued similar statements.
But the backlash is continuing. Online customers threatened boycotts and lobbied the companies of the manufacturing council’s remaining members. The panel includes the bosses of Dell, General Electric, General Motors, Campbell Soup and Whirlpool.
Along with McMillon, the CEOs of General Motors, JP Morgan and Pepsi sit on Trump’s policy forum.
Rashad Robinson, the executive director of Color of Change, a US racial justice organization, said more than 80,000 people had signed the group’s petition calling for CEOs to quit.
“You can’t take our money by day and make us feel unsafe by night,” he said. “These corporations should decide what side of history they are on. They talk about diversity, they target our community. Would it be OK for staffers at Pepsi to walk around with Nazi pins on?”
His comments were echoed by protesters outside Trump Tower in New York, where the president was spending the day holding meetings.
“Really I don’t think any patriotic American should support a president who is trying to divide us. I’d encourage every CEO who is on this council to resign in protest because Trump’s refusal to really come out against white supremacy is just not acceptable,” said Josh Friedman, a 23-year-old activist who co-organized Monday night’s Trump Tower protest.
The protests came after the chief executives of the pharmaceutical giant Merck, the sportswear retailer Under Armour and the computer company Intel all resigned from the council on Monday.
Merck’s Kenneth Frazier was the first to quit, citing his “responsibility to take a stand against intolerance and extremism”.
Trump promptly attacked Frazier, one of a handful of black CEOs and a man whose grandfather was born into slavery. “Now that Ken Frazier of Merck Pharma has resigned from President’s Manufacturing Council, he will have more time to LOWER RIPOFF DRUG PRICES!” he tweeted.
But Trump’s assault did not stop the Under Armour founder, Kevin Plank, and the Intel CEO, Brian Krzanich, following suit. “Politics and political agendas have sidelined the important mission of rebuilding America’s manufacturing base. I resigned because I want to make progress, while many in Washington seem more concerned with attacking anyone who disagrees with them,” said Krzanich.
The former US treasury secretary Larry Summers has added his voice to calls for bosses to quit Trump’s panels. “Since Inauguration Day, I have been troubled by abdication of moral responsibility on the part of business leaders who have lent their reputations to President Trump,” he wrote in the Washington Post.
“Every member of Trump’s advisory councils should wrestle with his or her conscience and ponder Edmund Burke’s famous warning that ‘all that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing’.”
Trump took two days to condemn racists for the violence in Charlottesville and was criticized by Republicans, as well as his opponents, for failing to denounce extremism. He has still stopped short of describing as an act of terrorism James Alex Fields Jr’s alleged use of a car to mow down a crowd of counter-protesters in Charlottesville.
Trump sparked widespread criticism when he half-heartedly criticized violence “on many sides”. According to the Associated Press, the president only made a fuller statement after White House senior advisers, including his new chief of staff, John Kelly, warned him that without a specific condemnation of the white supremacists who marched on Charlottesville, the negative story would not go away and could endanger his legislative agenda.
The row has deepened animosity towards Trump’s chief strategist, Steve Bannon, who formerly ran the Breitbart website, which he described as “the platform for the alt-right”. Congressional leaders representing black, Hispanic and Asian groups wrote to Trump on Tuesday calling for the removal of Bannon and the White House aides Stephen Miller and Sebastian Gorka, both of whom have close ties to Bannon.
“Americans deserve to know that white nationalists, white supremacists, and neo-Nazis are not in a position to influence US policy,” the letter says. “In this time of tumult in our country, Americans deserve a leader that will bring us all together and denounce those who seek to tear us apart.”
Several companies have said they intend to remain on Trump’s jobs council, including Dell, Campbell Soup and Whirlpool. “The reprehensible scenes of bigotry and hatred on display in Charlottesville over the weekend have no place in our society,” Campbell Soup said in a statement.
“We believe it continues to be important for Campbell to have a voice and provide input on matters that will affect our industry, our company and our employees in support of growth. Therefore, Ms [Denise] Morrison [the company’s president] will remain on the president’s Manufacturing Jobs Initiative.”