The fallout from President Trump's response to the Charlottesville tragedy escalated Wednesday as more prominent CEOs quit advising the White House on economic matters and Trump disbanded his manufacturing and business policy councils.
"Rather than putting pressure on the businesspeople of the Manufacturing Council & Strategy & Policy Forum, I am ending both. Thank you all!," Trump tweeted.
Campbell Soup CEO Denise Morrison and 3M CEO Inge Thulin Wednesday joined a growing list of American chief executives who are leaving the president's manufacturing job council, an advisory group the White House formed this year.
Rather than putting pressure on the businesspeople of the Manufacturing Council & Strategy & Policy Forum, I am ending both. Thank you all!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 16, 2017
Pressure from the business community has been intensifying this week following Trump's widely criticized response to violence that erupted after a neo-Nazi rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, over the weekend.
On Monday, Merck CEO Ken Frazier became the first major American chief executive to speak out against Trump's response, quitting the manufacturing council as "a matter of personal conscience."
Frazier's decision was followed hours later by other CEOs on the council, including Intel and Under Armour.
With the hashtag #Quitthecouncil trending, resignations continued in the last 48 hours as the chief executives of AFL-CIO, 3M, Campbell Soup and Alliance for American Manufacturing also ditched their relationships with the president.
"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," Frazier said. "As CEO of Merck and as a matter of personal conscience, I feel a responsibility to take a stand against intolerance and extremism."
Frazier's resignation prompted an angry rebuke from Trump 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 tweeted.
But Trump's initial refusal to name the specific hate groups that rallied in Charlottesville moved the other CEOs to walk away while extolling diversity and tolerance as company values.
Others who chose to stick with the councils cited the need to stay engaged with the White House to make meaningful changes. But the steady drumbeat for them to disassociate from Trump was growing daily.
But their resignations may have business motives as well, said Bill Klepper, professor of management at Columbia Business School. "I think they’re finding the cost of alignment with Trump is too high," he said. "They have a social contract to stakeholders (that says here’s what we stand for. These are our core values. Here’s how we’re going to contribute and win as a business in society. And we’re going to do it through ethical principles."
"And lots of things Trump has been doing or not doing come close to violating the social contact," Klepper said.