Washington: US President Donald Trump has said that the chief executives, who quit his advisory panel on manufacturing over his muted criticism of white supremacists, were leaving out of “embarrassment” as he was pressing them to make in America.
Eight CEOs – including Merck’s Kenneth Frazier, Intel’s Brian Krzanich, Kevin Plank of Under Armour, and Richard Trumka, president of American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organisations (AFL-CIO) – have quit from Trump’s two advisory councils.
A majority of them left after criticism mounted over the US president’s less-than-encouraging response to the weekend violence in Charlottesville, where a car rammed into a crowd peacefully protesting against the rally by white supremacists, killing a 32-year-old woman.
Three CEOs resigned earlier: Uber’s Travis Kalenick quit in protest against the Trump administration’s travel ban on people from six Muslim-majority nations, while Tesla’s Elon Musk and Disney’s Bob Iger left over its decision to withdraw from the historic Paris Agreement on Climate Change.
Asked why the CEOs were deserting his councils, Trump said: “Because they’re not taking their job seriously as it pertains to this country.”
“If you look at some of those people that you’re talking about they’re outside of the country, they’re having a lot of their product made outside. If you look at Merck as an example, take a look at where their product is made. It’s made outside of our country,” he told reporters at his Trump Towers in New York.
“Now, I have to tell you, some of the folks that will leave, they’re leaving out of embarrassment because they make their products outside. I’ve been lecturing them, including the gentleman that you’re referring to, about you have to bring it back to this country,” he said.
Trump has claimed on social media there were many CEOs waiting to fill in the positions now vacant on the councils. Ahead of his presidency, Trump in December 2016 formed two groups of high-profile executives to advise him to restore the US manufacturing industry – a hallmark of Trump’s campaign.
But the CEOs who quit Trump’s advisory councils have said they resigned “on behalf of America’s working people”.
AFL-CIO’s Trumka said: “We cannot sit on a council for a president who tolerates bigotry and domestic terrorism.”
“We must resign on behalf of America’s working people, who reject all notions of legitimacy of these bigoted groups,” Trumka said in a statement.
There are several CEOs who have decided to remain on the councils despite having differences with Trump’s statements on the Charlottesville violence.
“We believe we should stay engaged to try to influence decisions in a positive way and help bring people together,” Walmart CEO Doug McMillon said in an internal company memo.
Johnson and Johnson CEO Alex Gorsky, too, held the same view. “Johnson & Johnson has a responsibility to remain engaged, not as a way to support any specific political agenda, but as a way to represent the values of Our Credo as crucial public policy is discussed and developed,” he said.
According to a Boeing spokesman, CEO Dennis Muilenburg plans to stay on the council.
The CEOs of Whirlpool, General Electric, Dell and Campbell Soup, are staying on the presidential advisory council.