WASHINGTON ― Multiple members of the White House manufacturing council have resigned in protest this week over President Donald Trump’s botched response to a deadly white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Then, on Wednesday, Trump announced he would end the council altogether, following the departure of six CEOs and leaders from the AFL-CIO.
Merck & Co. CEO Ken Frazier, the only African-American on the council, was first to step down “to take a stand against intolerance and extremism,” he said in a statement. The move drew an immediate rebuke from Trump, who claimed on Twitter that the pharmaceuticals chief would now “have more time to lower ripoff drug prices.”
Later, Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank quit the group “to focus my efforts on inspiring every person that they can do anything through the power of sport which promotes unity, diversity and inclusion,” he said in a statement.
Intel CEO Brian Krzanich resigned “to call attention to the serious harm our divided political climate is causing to critical issues,” he said in a statement. “I resigned because I want to make progress, while many in Washington seem more concerned with attacking anyone who disagrees with them,” Krzanich added. “We should honor ― not attack ― those who have stood up for equality and other cherished American values.”
Scott Paul, president of the Alliance for American Manufacturing, announced his resignation from the council on Tuesday. “It’s the right thing for me to do,” he tweeted.
That same day, Campbell Soup CEO Denise Morrison reversed her previous decision to remain on the panel, citing Trump’s Tuesday press conference.
“Racism and murder are unequivocally reprehensible and are not morally equivalent to anything else that happened in Charlottesville. I believe the President should have been ― and still needs to be ― unambiguous on that point,” she said in a statement. “Following yesterday’s remarks from the President, I cannot remain on the Manufacturing Jobs Initiative.”
After Trump’s initial response blaming “many sides” for the mayhem on Saturday, bipartisan criticism forced him to condemn white supremacist groups on Monday, referring to them as “criminals and thugs” and calling them “repugnant.” On Tuesday, however, he defended his initial remarks.
Representatives for most of the CEOs on Trump’s manufacturing council did not immediately respond to HuffPost’s queries about Frazier’s resignation and whether they agreed with his statement on Saturday. Some declined to comment outright.
Other CEOs on the council issued statements condemning bigotry and violence on display in Charlottesville over the weekend, while also making clear that they intended to remain on the panel.
“In Dow there is no room for hatred, racism, or bigotry,” said Dow Chemical CEO Andrew Liveris. “Dow will continue to work to strengthen the social and economic fabric of the communities where it operates – including supporting policies that help create employment opportunities in manufacturing and rebuild the American workforce.”
Campbell Soup CEO Denise Morrison denounced the “racist ideology at the center of the protests” in Charlottesville and called on others to do the same, but added that she would stay on the council in order to “have a voice and provide input on matters that will affect our industry.”
A spokeswoman for General Electric said the company condemns the hatred and bigotry on display in at the rally in Charlottesville. However, that spokesperson added, General Electric chairman Jeff Immelt will also remain on the council because “it is important for GE to participate in the discussion on how to drive growth and productivity in the U.S.”
Lauren Lee, a spokeswoman for Dell, said there is “no change in Dell engaging with the Trump administration and governments around the world to share our perspective on policy issues that affect our company, our customers and our employees.”
Whirlpool Corp. said it “believes strongly in an open and inclusive culture that respects people of all races” and that it would continue on the council.
Under Armour’s Plank, who has faced criticism over his past praise of Trump and who later denounced some of Trump’s policies, initially tweeted that his company is “saddened” by the violence in Charlottesville.
“There is no place for racism or discrimination in this world. We choose love & unity,” Plank added. Monday evening, he resigned from the group.
Nucor and International Paper also denounced the violence over the weekend. They, too, said they would remain on the council.
Lockheed Martin CEO Marillyn Hewson, Corning CEO Wendell Weeks, and Harris Corp. CEO Bill Brown declined to comment.
While Ford Motor Co. initially participated in the council, it is no longer a member.
“Ford does not have a representative on the manufacturing council,” Michael Levine, a Ford spokesman, told HuffPost. CEO Jim Hackett, who replaced Mark Fields in May, quickly distanced himself from the White House and did not rejoin the council.
Elon Musk, the billionaire founder of SpaceX and Tesla, also resigned from the council earlier this year due to Trump’s decision to leave the Paris Agreement on climate change.
On Tuesday, Trump responded to the CEOs departing from the council by tweeting that he has “many to take their place.”
Here’s a list of the president’s remaining American Manufacturing Council members:
Andrew Liveris, Dow Chemical Co.
Bill Brown, Harris Corporation
Michael Dell, Dell Technologies
John Ferriola, Nucor
Jeff Fettig, Whirlpool
Alex Gorsky, Johnson & Johnson
Greg Hayes, United Technologies Corp.
Marillyn Hewson, Lockheed Martin Corp.
Jeffrey Immelt, General Electric Co.
Jim Kamsickas, Dana Inc.
Rich Kyle, Timken Co.
Dennis Muilenburg, Boeing Co.
Doug Oberhelman, Caterpillar Inc.
Michael Polk, Newell Brands
Mark Sutton, International Paper
Wendell Weeks, Corning
This article has been updated to include the resignations of additional members of the manufacturing council, as well as Trump’s response on Twitter and his later announcement that he was ending the council.
Alexander Kaufman and Marina Fang contributed reporting.