U.S. President Donald Trump is lashing out at the growing number of corporate executives who are distancing themselves from his administration after his response to a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va., that led to the death of one counter-protester last weekend.
A day after a number of high-profile CEOs started to resign from his business advisory council — the American Manufacturing Council — the U.S. president lashed out.
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"For every CEO that drops out of the manufacturing council, I have many to take their place. Grandstanders should not have gone on. JOBS!"
For every CEO that drops out of the Manufacturing Council, I have many to take their place. Grandstanders should not have gone on. JOBS!— @realDonaldTrump
Scott Paul, president of the Alliance for American Manufacturing, announced his resignation Tuesday, a day after the first three prominent CEOs made their moves, starting with the head of pharmaceutical giant Merck, the sports gear company Under Armour and the tech firm Intel.
A fifth member of his manufacturing council resigned Tuesday afternoon: AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka, who said in a statement,"We cannot sit on a council for a president who tolerates bigotry and domestic terrorism."
Their departures came after Trump criticized the violence at the rally, but said it was happening "on many sides," rather than singling out the white supremacists. The president on Monday later condemned groups tied to racism, before letting loose with fiery invective and churlish threats on social media.
Merck CEO Kenneth Frazier's departure in particular was met with an angry rebuke that his company's drug prices are a "rip off."
William Galston, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, said he couldn't "think of a parallel example" of any president responding as viciously as Trump to a CEO departing an advisory council.
"Usually, certain niceties are observed to smooth over a rupture," said Galston, who served as a domestic policy aide in the Clinton administration.
I love our country & company. I am stepping down from the council to focus on inspiring & uniting through power of sport. - CEO Kevin Plank pic.twitter.com/8YvndJMjj1— @UnderArmour
"We've learned that as president, Mr. Trump is behaving exactly as he did as a candidate," Galston said. "He knows only one mode: When attacked, hit back harder."
Ed Rensi, the former CEO of McDonald's, criticized the president's moves in an interview with CBC News on Monday.
"I think it was childish and unprofessional and beneath the dignity of a guy holding that office. Shame on him, he shouldn't behave that way," Rensi said.
"And you can't be a bully. You don't bully the CEO of Merck."
Within hours of Frazier's announcement, Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank, who has felt some blowback for his support of the president, resigned from the same panel, saying his company "engages in innovation and sports, not politics." Plank did not specifically mention Trump or Charlottesville, but said his company will focus on promoting "unity, diversity and inclusion" through sports.
But Intel CEO Brian Krzanich was more specific when he resigned a short time later, writing that while he had urged leaders to condemn "white supremacists and their ilk," many in Washington "seem more concerned with attacking anyone who disagrees with them."
Drugmakers have come under withering criticism for soaring prices in the U.S., including by Trump, though he has yet to act on a promise to contain them.
The exchange lit up social media, with many people lauding Frazier and blasting the president. There was also a push online seeking more resignations from the remaining executives on the panel, just over 20 of them.
The U.S. president doubled down later in the day, saying he had many options to replace the CEOs who left with ones who will be more focused on his job creation agenda.
The current round of departures is not the first that the president has seen from the corporate community.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk resigned from the manufacturing council in June, and two other advisory groups to the president, after the U.S. withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement. And in February, Uber's then-CEO Travis Kalanick left the president's side over his executive order curtailing immigration. Kalanick said the order was "hurting people in communities all across America."
Walt Disney Co. chairman and CEO Bob Iger resigned for the same reason from the President's Strategic and Policy Forum, which Trump established to advise him on how government policy impacts economic growth and job creation.
The manufacturing council had 28 members initially, but it has shrunk since it was formed earlier this year as executives retire, are replaced, or resign.