4th Executive Quits Trump Panel Over Handling Of Charlottesville Violence

Andrew Cummings
August 16, 2017

President Trump's initial failure to condemn white supremacy on Saturday was too much for Kenneth Frazier.

Less than an hour after Merck tweeted a statement from Frazier announcing his departure, Trump wrote that the pharmaceutical executive would now "have more time to LOWER RIPOFF DRUG PRICES".

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But his off-the-cuff remarks on Tuesday repeated the very arguments that chief executives like pharma giant Merck's CEO Ken Frazier cited as a reason for leaving Trump's council in the first place.

Merck CEO Kenneth Frazier quit President Trump's manufacturing council on Monday
Merck CEO Kenneth Frazier quit President Trump's manufacturing council on Monday

The response, and the speed in which it arrived, caught many off guard.

By early afternoon on Monday, Mr Trump did issue a direct condemnation of hate groups, but it did not appear to tamp down criticism that it was not done over the weekend when fringe groups clashed with protesters.

"Usually, certain niceties are observed to smooth over a rupture", said Galston, who served as a domestic policy aide in the Clinton administration. You violated them.' But the CEOs who are smart know, 'Once I back out of that opportunity to shape policy, the voice that I could have had is now lost, ' " he added.

While Plank did not explicitly say why he was stepping down, he did say he wanted to "focus my efforts on inspiring every person that they can do anything through the power of sport which promotes unity, diversity and inclusion".

Drugmakers have come under withering criticism for soaring prices in the USA, including by Trump, though he has yet to act on a promise to contain them. There was also a push online seeking more resignations from the remaining executives on the same panel, just over 20 of them. And today's encore commentary-which again cast blame "on both sides" and included mentions of the Alt-Left, a group that doesn't exist-may do little to convince cautious CEOs to fill the void in the President's advisory ranks.

The CEOs remaining on the advisory group - including those from Dow Chemical, General Electric and Wal-Mart Stores - all have their own "risk calculations" to make, said John Rice, CEO of Management Leadership for Tomorrow, a nonprofit that helps companies, including Goldman Sachs Group and Alphabet Inc.'s Google, find minority talent.

Mr Frazier is not the first executive to resign from advisory councils serving Mr Trump.

The AFL-CIO's president Richard Trumka, who is also a member of Trump's manufacturing council, denounced the actions of protesters in a statement Monday, saying "we are aware of the decisions by other members of the President's Manufacturing Council, which has yet to hold any real meeting, and are assessing our role".

The council is supposed to meet occasionally to share insights with the president on job growth.

The manufacturing jobs council had 28 members initially, but it has shrunk since it was formed earlier this year as executives retire, are replaced, or, as with Frazier and Musk, resign. The clean energy advocate spoke publicly about wanting to advise Trump on climate issues, even though the president downplayed the problem.

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