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'It's the Right Thing to Do': More CEOs Leave Trump's Manufacturing Council in Charlottesville Protest

WASHINGTON — More CEOs have left President Trump’s manufacturing advisory council in protest of his reaction to the white supremacist rally Saturday in Charlottesville, Va., with Trump countering that he can easily get other business leaders to fill their place.

The first to resign was Merck chairman and CEO Kenneth Frazier, who announced Monday that he was leaving the White House’s American Manufacturing Council “to take a stand against intolerance.”

“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,” Frazier said in a statement. “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 Merck and as a matter of personal conscience, I feel a responsibility to take a stand against intolerance and extremism,” he added.

Trump shot back on Twitter, “Now that Ken Frazier of Merck Pharma has resigned from President’s Manufacturing Council, he will have more time to LOWER RIPOFF DRUG PRICES!”

Brian Kranzich, CEO of Intel, announced on the company’s blog that he resigned Monday “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.”

“I resigned because I want to make progress, while many in Washington seem more concerned with attacking anyone who disagrees with them,” he said. “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.”

Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank said his company “engages in innovation and sports, not politics.”

“I am appreciative of the opportunity to have served, but have decided to step down from the council,” he said. “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 inclusion.”

Scott Paul of the Alliance for American Manufacturing announced Tuesday on Twitter, “I’m resigning from the Manufacturing Jobs Initiative because it’s the right thing for me to do.” This morning, he tweeted an Elie Wiesel quote: “We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.”

AFL-CIO boss Richard Trumka had previously said he would stay on the council, but changed his mind after Trump’s Tuesday press conference. “We cannot sit on a council for a president who tolerates bigotry and domestic terrorism. President Trump’s remarks today repudiate his forced remarks yesterday about the KKK and neo-Nazis,” Trumka said. “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.”

At that press conference, Trump charged that the CEOs who resigned the council are “not taking their job seriously as it pertains to this country.”

“We want jobs, manufacturing in this country. If you look at some of those people that you’re talking about, they’re outside of the country. They’re having a lot of their product made outside. If you look at Merck, as an example, take a look where — excuse me — excuse me — take a look at where their product is made. It’s made outside of our country. We want products made in the country,” the president said.

“Now, I have to tell you, some of the folks that will leave, they’re leaving out of embarrassment because they make they’re products outside. And I’ve been lecturing them, including the gentleman that you’re referring to, about you have to bring it back to this country. You can’t do it necessarily in Ireland and all of these other places. You have to bring this work back to this country,” he added. “That’s what I want. I want manufacturing to be back into the United States so that American workers can benefit.”

A Twitter campaign is pressuring other CEOs on the panel to quit as well, including Dow, General Electric, Whirlpool, Boeing, Johnson & Johnson, Lockheed Martin, and International Paper.

“Several members have made the decision to leave President Trump’s White House Manufacturing Advisory Council, and I respect their decision as a matter of personal conscience. Given the events of the past few day, I can understand the concern — even the fear — that some people have expressed,” Johnson & Johnson CEO Alex Gorsky said in a statement. “These are difficult days for everyone. In the end, I have concluded that Johnson & Johnson has a responsibility to remain engaged, not as a way to support any specific political agenda, but as a way to represent the values of Our Credo as crucial public policy is discussed and developed.”

Trump tweeted Tuesday, “For every CEO that drops out of the Manufacturing Council, I have many to take their place. Grandstanders should not have gone on. JOBS!”

Walmart CEO Doug McMillan criticized Trump’s response but said he would continue to serve on the White House Strategic and Policy Forum.

“As we watched the events and the response from President Trump over the weekend, we too felt that he missed a critical opportunity to help bring our country together by unequivocally rejecting the appalling actions of white supremacists,” McMillan wrote Monday on the company’s website.

UPDATE 1 p.m. EST: 3M CEO Inge Thulin and Campbell Soup Co. CEO Denise Morrison both announced they are leaving the council.

“I joined the Manufacturing Jobs Initiative in January to advocate for policies that align with our values and encourage even stronger investment and job growth – in order to make the United States stronger, healthier and more prosperous for all people,” Thulin said in a statement. “After careful consideration, I believe the initiative is no longer an effective vehicle for 3M to advance these goals.”

“Racism and murder are unequivocally reprehensible and are not morally equivalent to anything else that happened in Charlottesville. I believe the president should have been – and still needs to be – unambiguous on that point,” Morrison said in a statement.

UPDATE 1:40 p.m. EST: Trump tweeted, “Rather than putting pressure on the businesspeople of the Manufacturing Council & Strategy & Policy Forum, I am ending both. Thank you all!”