After the resignation of two more members of his American Manufacturing Council, President Donald J. Trump announced on the afternoon of Wednesday, Aug. 16, that he had disbanded the council. The fresh resignations brought to eight the number of business leaders who left the group in response to the President’s statements on the violence during a protest rally in Charlottesville, Va., on Aug. 12.
Trump said he will also dissolve his Strategic & Policy Forum.
The latest manufacturing council defections began on Aug. 14 with an announcement by Kenneth Frazier, the CEO of Merck & Co., that he would leave in response to the President’s failure to forcefully denounce the white nationalists who convened in Charlottesville to protest the removal of a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. The event provoked violence, resulting in one death and 19 injuries when a car was driven into a crowd of counterprotesters.
In a statement, Frazier said, “America’s leaders must honor our fundamental values by clearly rejecting expressions of hatred, bigotry, and group supremacy, which run counter to the American ideal that all people are created equal.” Trump shot back promptly on Twitter: “Now that Ken Frazier of Merck Pharma has resigned from President’s Manufacturing Council, he will have more time to LOWER RIPOFF DRUG PRICES!”
Trump returned to the podium and Twitter for the next 48 hours. At a Monday, Aug. 14, press conference, he denounced racism and hate groups. But on Tuesday he repeated his assertion from Saturday that both sides in the clash share blame for violence over the weekend.
The steady stream of resignations culminated in a Wednesday morning conference call with members of the Strategic & Policy Forum at which members decided to disband the group, according to the New York Times. A similar call was planned for the manufacturing council before the President disbanded both groups, the Times reports.
Dow Chemical CEO Andrew Liveris, who headed the council, issued a statement on Monday afternoon denouncing hatred, racism, and bigotry without withdrawing support for the President’s manufacturing jobs initiative. In a statement late Wednesday, Liveris said he believed the council had reached an impasse: “In discussions I had with the White House earlier today, I indicated that in the current environment it was no longer possible to conduct productive discussions under the auspices of the Initiative.”