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CEOs Of Merck, Under Armour And Intel Resign From Trump's Business Council

Kenneth Frazier, the CEO of Merck, said he was stepping down from a business council as a matter of personal conscience. He's seen here with President Trump during a White House event in July.
Saul Loeb
AFP/Getty Images
Kenneth Frazier, the CEO of Merck, said he was stepping down from a business council as a matter of personal conscience. He's seen here with President Trump during a White House event in July.

Updated at 2:30 a.m. ET Tuesday
By the end of the day on Monday, three CEOs had announced they were leaving President Trump's American Manufacturing Council. Merck CEO Kenneth Frazier was the first to announce his resignation followed by Under Armour's Kevin Plank and Intel's Brian Krzanich.

The resignations came after Trump was criticized for his response to the violence at white supremacist events in Charlottesville, Va., over the weekend. The president, famous for his ability to be direct and forceful, was faulted for condemning violence "on many sides."

Frazier announced early in the day that he was leaving Trump's advisory council, saying, "I feel a responsibility to take a stand against intolerance and extremism."

Within an hour of Merck announcing Frazier's withdrawal, Trump retorted on Twitter, "Now that Ken Frazier of Merck Pharma has resigned ... he will have more time to lower ripoff drug prices!"

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."

Frazier, who is African-American, said he was acting as both the CEO of Merck and "as a matter of personal conscience."

The rift did not seem to harm Merck's stock: The drug company's shares rose by nearly a full percentage point in the first hour of trading, to nearly $63.

Hours after Frazier resigned, Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank also said he was stepping down from the council. Plank's company had faced a backlash earlier this year over his support of Trump.

And then, the CEO of computer chip maker Intel announced he would also leave the group. Brain Krzanichin a blog post wrote that while he urged leaders to condemn "white supremacists and their ilk," many in Washington "seem more concerned with attacking anyone who disagrees with them."

Members of Trump's own party have called on the president to condemn Saturday's killing of a woman who had been protesting white supremacists as an act of domestic terrorism. The White House later stated that Trump was including "white supremacists, KKK Neo-Nazi and all extremist groups" in his remarks about the violence.

The New York Times reports :

Over the course of the day, several top executives made statements denouncing racism and bigotry generally, although few went as far as Mr. Frazier, Mr. Plank or Mr. Krzanich.

"Bigotry, hatred and extremism are an affront to core American values and have no place in this country," said Stephen A. Schwarzman, the chief executive of the private equity firm the Blackstone Group and one of the president's closest advisers in the business community. "I am deeply saddened and troubled by the tragic events in Charlottesville."

Dell Technologies said that its chief executive, Michael Dell, would remain on the White House manufacturing advisory council. And General Electric said in a statement that it had "no tolerance for hate, bigotry or racism" while adding that Jeff Immelt, the company's chairman and recently retired chief executive, would also continue to advise the president.

The president of the A.F.L.-C.I.O., Richard Trumka, went further than most, suggesting that Mr. Trump's initial comments about the violence in Charlottesville was giving him pause.

Frazier's departure is the latest high-profile exit from a White House advisory council since Trump took office in January.

After Trump announced in June that the U.S. would be leaving the Paris climate accord, both Tesla CEO Elon Musk and Disney CEO Bob Iger left his business advisory council.

Months earlier, in February, Uber co-founder Travis Kalanick left the same panel during the fallout from Trump's executive order, which at the time banned immigrants from seven majority-Muslim countries.

"The executive order is hurting many people in communities all across America," Kalanick said at the time.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.
Doreen McCallister