Updated on August 16 at 12:42 p.m. ET
Over the weekend, white supremacists gathered in Charlottesville for a rally that left one person dead and others severely injured. President Trump’s response was tepid at first, pointing to violence on “many sides,” a phrase he repeated for emphasis.
In the days since, several prominent business leaders have responded by repudiating the Trump administration—resigning from the president’s manufacturing council and issuing statements. First to go was Kenneth Frazier, the chief executive officer of Merck Pharmaceuticals and one of the country’s most prominent black executives. “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,” he wrote in a statement released on Twitter. “America’s leaders must honor our fundamental values by clearly rejecting expressions of hatred, bigotry, and group supremacy.” (Trump swiftly met Frazier’s statement with an attack on Twitter.) Then, three more followed—the CEO of Intel, Brian Krzanich, the CEO of Under Armour, Kevin Plank, and the president of the Alliance for American Manufacturing, Scott Paul. They were joined Tuesday evening by the president of the AFL-CIO, Richard Trumka, and Wednesday afternoon by the CEO of 3M, Inge Thulin.
Granted, many businesses and executives have remained silent in the face of Trump’s provocations, with one unnamed CEO telling Andrew Ross Sorkin of the New York Times, “Just look at what he did to Ken. I’m not sticking my head up.” Still, the departures underscored corporations’ willingness to critique the White House—and Trump personally—especially on issues of racial bias, equality, and sustainability. And it seems possible that executives will leave the White House’s advisory councils en masse.