The chairman and CEO of American pharmaceutical giant Merck announced Monday that he was resigning from President Donald Trump's American Manufacturing Council "as a matter of personal conscience" in the wake of a deadly vehicle attack on protesters in Virginia over the weekend.
Merck chief executive Kenneth Frazier was the first to depart the council Monday, followed by Intel Corp. "These were white supremacists and this was domestic terrorism".
Unilever CEO Paul Polman wrote on Twitter, "Thanks @Merck Ken Frazier for strong leadership to stand up for the moral values that made this country what it is".
In February, he stood next to the president in the White House to announce a $7 billion investment in a new US factory.
Trump's criticism of Merck and Frazier is a reversal.
Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank said Monday August 14, 2017 night that he's leaving President Trump's manufacturing council, the second departure by a high-profile business leader in the space of a day. Some of Trump's political opponents called it a "dog whistle" to his far-right voter bloc supporters.
Frazier, who had been the only African-American CEO to join the manufacturing council, announced early Monday morning that he would step down "as a matter of personal conscience".
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In a statement on his resignation, Frazier said, "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". The president, famous for his ability to be direct and forceful, was faulted for condemning violence "on many sides". An email to spokespersons for the White House was not immediately returned.
On Monday, attorney general Jeff Sessions said the death of paralegal Heather Heyer, 32, who was killed when a auto ploughed into a group of counter-protesters in Charlottesville "does meet the definition of domestic terrorism in our statute".
He lashed out nearly immediately at Frazier, saying on Twitter that he will now "have more time to LOWER RIPOFF DRUG PRICES!"
While Musk publicly and repeatedly rebuked several Trump policies, including the travel ban, he said he believed having a seat at the table was "doing good". The president finally condemned the violence directly yesterday, but it was simply too little and too late.
This isn't the first time Trump has clashed this year with high-profile CEOs over his handling of policy matters.
The US President has been at his New Jersey golf club on a "working vacation", but is expected to return to Washington on Monday to sign an executive action on China's trade policies. "He called for national unity and bringing all Americans together".
As Chris Cillizza noted on CNN, "The wrong answer is to not name them, to cast the events in Charlottesville as an example of both-sides-do-it-ism and make your statement vague enough that it can be interpreted in any way shape or form as condoning this sort of behavior".