Business chiefs quit Donald Trump council over response to white supremacist violence

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Three bosses of major US companies have quit a presidential business council over Donald Trump’s slow response in condemning a white supremacist rally that erupted in violence.

Brian Krzanich, chief executive of computer chip giant Intel, resigned from Mr Trump’s American Manufacturing Council, along with Kenneth Frazier, chief executive of pharmaceutical firm Merck, and Kevin Plank, boss of sportswear firm Under Armour.

The men were reacting to Mr Trump’s tepid response to violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, when he blamed “many sides” for violence after far-Right marchers clashed with anti-racist protesters on Saturday. A woman was killed and more than 20 injured after a man with alleged Nazi sympathies drove into a group of demonstrators.

Last night, after two days ignoring pleas to stand up against racism, Mr Trump finally condemned neo-Nazis and members of the Ku Klux Klan as “criminals and thugs”.

But the denunciation was too little, too late for thousands of protesters who gathered outside Trump Tower as Mr Trump arrived in New York after a golf break in nearby New Jersey.

Demonstrators holding placards saying “Two days too late” and “Refuse fascism” stood across the street from Trump Tower and lined Fifth Avenue.

Mr Trump’s belated condemnation was also too late to address the cracks in his business advisory committee. Mr Frazier, the only African-American on the council, was the first to announce he was leaving, with a statement on Merck’s Twitter account.

He wrote: “America’s leaders must honour 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. As CEO of Merck and as a matter of personal conscience, I feel a responsibility to take a stand against extremism.’”

Less than an hour later, the president tweeted: “Now that Ken Frazier of Merck Pharma has resigned from President’s Manufacturing Council, he will have more time to LOWER RIPOFF DRUG PRICES!” Later, he added: “@Merck Pharma is a leader in higher & higher drug prices while at the same time taking jobs out of the U.S. Bring jobs back & LOWER PRICES!”

Mr Plank followed Mr Frazier’s lead and said: “Under Armour engages in innovation and sports, not politics.”

Then Mr Krzanich issued a statement saying: “I resigned to call attention to the serious harm our divided political climate is causing to critical issues, including the serious need to address the decline of American manufacturing. We should honour — not attack — those who have stood up for equality and other cherished American values.”

In January, Starbucks boss Howard Schultz, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos and Tim Cook, of Apple, criticised Mr Trump’s planned travel ban on refugees.

In June, Tesla chief executive Elon Musk and Disney’s Bob Iger quit Mr Trump’s business council in protest at his decision to withdraw the US from the Paris climate accord.

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