Fourth CEO quits US President's advisory council; Trump responds: 'I have many to take their place'

A fourth business leader has resigned from US President Donald Trump's White House jobs council.

The resignation is the latest sign that corporate America's romance with Mr Trump is faltering following his equivocal original response to violence by white supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia.

The parade of departing leaders now includes the chief executives for Merck, Under Armour and Intel and now the president of the Alliance for American Manufacturing.

Alliance president Scott Paul, in a tweet, said: "I'm resigning from the Manufacturing Jobs Initiative because it's the right thing for me to do."

Corporate leaders have been willing to work with Mr Trump on taxes, trade and reducing regulations, but they have increasingly found themselves grappling with cultural and social divides amid his controversial style of leadership. The CEOs who left the council quickly faced his wrath.

Mr Trump tweeted: "For every CEO that drops out of the Manufacturing Council, I have many to take their place. Grandstanders should not have gone on. JOBS!"

Merck CEO Kenneth Frazier, one of only four African-Americans to lead a Fortune 500 company today, was the first to tender his resignation on Monday.

He was criticised almost immediately by Mr Trump on Twitter.

Then came resignations from Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank and then Intel CEO Brian Krzanich.

Austan Goolsbee, the former chief economist for former president Barack Obama, said the departures suggest the president's response to the violence in Charlottesville could alienate those who work for the companies, and those who buy the products and services that they sell.

"It's certainly a sign that Trump's more controversial stuff isn't playing well with companies selling to middle America," said Mr Goolsbee, now a professor at the University of Chicago.

There had already been departures from two major councils created by the Trump administration that were tied to its policies.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk resigned from the manufacturing council in June, and two other advisory groups to the president, after the US withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement.

Walt Disney Company chairman and CEO Bob Iger resigned for the same reason from the president's Strategic and Policy Forum.

The manufacturing jobs council had 28 members initially, but it has shrunk since it was formed earlier this year as executives retire, are replaced, or, as with Mr Frazier, Mr Musk, Mr Plank, Mr Paul and Mr Krzanich, resign.

Dan Eaton, a business ethics instructor at the San Diego State University Fowler College of Business and a partner at San Diego-based law firm Seltzer Caplan McMahon Vitek, said that while CEOs may feel it is their civic duty to serve the president, their responsibility ultimately is to their shareholders, employees and customers.

"That's something that's always in play, and as a result some companies choose to abstain from getting involved in political roles," he said.

Mr Eaton said that the potential for a public rebuke from a sitting president is not a concern only to those now on advisory panels, but to all who may be asked to serve in the future.

Already, there is a push on social media lobbying other executives to distance themselves from Mr Trump, and resign.

So far, the majority of CEOs and business leaders that are sitting on the two major, federal panels, are condemning racism, but say they want to keep a seat at the table.

"Our commitment to diversity and inclusion is unwavering, and we will remain active champions for these efforts," said a spokesman for Campbell Soup CEO Denise Morrison.

"We believe it continues to be important for Campbell to have a voice and provide input on matters that will affect our industry, our company and our employees in support of growth. Therefore, Ms Morrison will remain on the president's Manufacturing Jobs Initiative."

Boeing CEO Dennis Builenburg will also remain.

Lawrence Summers, once the chief economist at the World Bank and senior Treasury official, wondered when more business leaders will distance themselves from Mr Trump.

"After this weekend, I am not sure what it would take to get these CEOs to resign," he tweeted.

"Demonising ethnic groups? That has happened."

AP


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