New York (AFP) – The chief executives of Merck, Intel and Under
Armour resigned Monday from a White House advisory panel on
manufacturing after President Donald Trump’s initial failure to
explicitly condemn a white supremacist rally.
The resignations came as criticism grew over Trump’s slow
response to the weekend demonstration which ended in bloodshed
when a suspected Nazi sympathizer plowed his car into a crowd of
anti-racism protesters, killing one and wounding 19.
Trump initially blamed “many sides” for Saturday’s violence,
sparking a welter of criticism and prompting Merck CEO Kenneth
Frazier, a prominent African-American businessman, to quit the
presidential advisory panel.
“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 men are created
equal,” Frazier wrote on Twitter in announcing his resignation on
“As CEO of Merck and as a matter of personal conscience, I feel a
responsibility to take a stand against intolerance and
Trump didn’t wait long to respond.
“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 wrote.
In a later post, Trump accused Merck of being “a leader in higher
& higher drug prices while at the same time taking jobs out
of the U.S. Bring jobs back & LOWER PRICES.”
Several hours later, Under Armour founder and chief executive
Kevin Plank also announced he would step down from the panel.
“Under Armour engages in innovation and sports, not politics,” he
said in a subtly-worded statement
“I love our country and our company and will continue to focus my
efforts on inspiring every person that they can do anything
through the power of sport, which promotes unity, diversity and
Earlier this year, Plank had publicly expressed support for Trump
in comments which sparked a backlash.
Intel chief Brian Krzanich also announced his departure from the
panel in a blunt statement which said he wanted to “call
attention to the serious harm our divided political climate is
causing to critical issues.”
“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
“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.”
Shortly after Frazier’s resignation, Trump made a statement
calling out specific hate groups.
“Racism is evil. And those who cause violence in its name are
criminals and thugs, including the KKK, neo-Nazis, white
supremacists and other hate groups that are repugnant to
everything we hold dear as Americans,” he said in nationally
The Justice Department has launched a civil rights inquiry into
the incident, and the driver of the car, a 20-year-old Ohio man
who was said to have had a history of neo-Nazi beliefs, has been
charged with second-degree murder.
Frazier is a Harvard Law School-trained attorney whose experience
includes pro bono work that won the release of a
wrongly-convicted death row inmate in Alabama.
He is not the first executive to depart a Trump advisory
After Trump announced he would withdraw the United States from
the Paris climate agreement, Disney CEO Bob Iger and Tesla Motors
chief Elon Musk both left a White House advisory council, joining
former Uber head Travis Kalanick, who stepped down in February
following criticism of Trump’s travel ban.
But other executives on the panel appear to be staying put.
“Heartbroken by the violence in #Charlottesville. Hate and
intolerance are a betrayal of what we stand for as Americans,”
said Pepsi CEO Indra Nooyi in a statement that did not
address the Trump panel.
Other executives, including those from General Electric and Dow,
planned to stay on Trump panels, US financial news media