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Trump Rips Into Business Leaders       08/16 06:09

   President Donald Trump on Tuesday ripped into business leaders who resigned 
from his White House jobs panel -- the latest sign that corporate America's 
romance with Trump is faltering -- after his equivocal response to violence by 
white supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia.

   WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Donald Trump on Tuesday ripped into business 
leaders who resigned from his White House jobs panel --- the latest sign that 
corporate America's romance with Trump is faltering --- after his equivocal 
response to violence by white supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia.

   "They're not taking their job seriously as it pertains to this country," the 
president said at an impromptu news conference at Trump Tower in New York City.

   After his remarks, a fifth member of his manufacturing panel resigned: 
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."

   The president denied that his original statement about the violence in 
Virginia on Saturday --- saying "many" sides were to blame, rather than hate 
groups --- was the cause of the departures.

   "Some of the folks that will leave, they're leaving out of embarrassment 
because they make their products outside" the United States, he said as he 
seemed to double down on his earlier comments.

   Trump also assailed the CEOs who left on Twitter as "grandstanders" and said 
he had plenty of executives available to take their place. The president added 
that he believes economic growth in the U.S. will heal its racial divide.

   But the parade of departing leaders from the informal panel seems closely 
linked to how the president responded to events that led to the death of a 
counter-protester that opposed the white supremacists.

   Among those who've left are the chief executives for Merck, Under Armour and 
Intel and the president of the Alliance for American Manufacturing.

   Alliance president Scott Paul, in a tweet, said simply, "I'm resigning from 
the Manufacturing Jobs Initiative because it's the right thing for me to do." 
Within minutes of the tweet on Tuesday, calls to Paul's phone were being sent 
to voicemail.

   Wal-Mart CEO Doug McMillon joined the chorus, saying in a note Monday to 
employees, "(We) too felt that he missed a critical opportunity to help bring 
our country together by unequivocally rejecting the appalling actions of white 
supremacists."

   But McMillon, whose business has customers on all sides of the political 
spectrum, plans to stay on a separate Trump advisory panel and said that the 
president's follow-up remarks on Monday that named white supremacists were a 
step in the right direction.

   Corporate leaders have been willing to work with Trump on taxes, trade and 
reducing regulations, but they've increasingly found themselves grappling with 
cultural and social tensions amid his lightning rod-style of leadership. The 
CEOs who left the council quickly faced his wrath, while those who have stayed 
have said it's important to speak with the president on economic issues.

   Like several other corporate leaders, Alex Gorsky, chairman and CEO of 
Johnson & Johnson, said that intolerance and racism have no place in U.S. 
society but that he intended to stay on the manufacturing council.

   "We must engage if we hope to change the world and those who lead it," he 
said in a statement.

   A White House official downplayed the importance of the manufacturing 
council and a separate policy and strategy forum featuring corporate leaders. 
The official, who insisted on anonymity to discuss private conversations, said 
the panels were informal rather than a set body of advisers. The departures, 
the official said, were unlikely to hurt the administration's plans to overhaul 
taxes and regulations.

   Many corporate leaders have faced a lose-lose scenario in which any choice 
involving politics can alienate customers, not to mention a U.S. president who 
has shown a willingness to personally negotiate government contracts.

   Merck CEO Kenneth Frazier, one of only four African-Americans leading a 
Fortune 500 company, was the first to tender his resignation Monday.

   Trump criticized Frazier almost immediately Monday over drug prices, and 
again Tuesday for having factories overseas. Merck has 25,000 U.S. employees in 
all 50 states and has invested $50 billion in research and development since 
2010, primarily in the United States.

   Then came resignations from Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank and then Intel CEO 
Brian Krzanich. On Under Armour's Facebook page Tuesday, customers who 
supported Trump threatened to boycott the athletic clothier.

   Austan Goolsbee, the former chief economist for President Barack Obama, said 
the departures suggest the president's response to the violence in 
Charlottesville could alienate those who work for the companies, and those who 
buy the products and services that they sell.

   "It's certainly a sign that Trump's more controversial stuff isn't playing 
well with companies selling to middle America," said Goolsbee, now a professor 
at the University of Chicago.

   There had already been departures from two major councils created by the 
Trump administration that were tied to its policies.

   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. Walt Disney Co. Chairman and CEO Bob Iger resigned for 
the same reason from the President's Strategic and Policy Forum.

   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, Musk, Plank, Paul and Krzanich, resign.

   So far, the majority of CEOs and business leaders that are sitting on the 
two major, federal panels, are condemning racism, but say they want to keep 
their seats at the table.

   "Our commitment to diversity and inclusion is unwavering, and we will remain 
active champions for these efforts," said a spokesman for Campbell Soup for CEO 
Denise Morrison. "We believe it continues to be important for Campbell to have 
a voice and provide input on matters that will affect our industry, our company 
and our employees in support of growth."

   Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg also will remain. So will Michael Dell, the 
head of his namesake computer company. Both companies contract with the 
government.

   Lawrence Summers, once the chief economist at the World Bank and senior 
Treasury official, wondered when more business leaders will distance themselves 
from Trump.

   "After this weekend, I am not sure what it would take to get these CEOs to 
resign," he tweeted. "Demonizing ethnic groups? That has happened."


(KA)

 
 
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