A pair of industry panels convened by President Donald Trump disintegrated today in the wake of his latest comments on the racist violence in Charlottesville.
After Merck (NYSE:MRK) CEO Kenneth Frazier announced on Monday that he planned to leave Trump’s manufacturing advisory panel, a wave of executives followed in his path.
Today, reversing from a statement he made yesterday, Johnson & Johnson (NYSE:JNJ) CEO Alex Gorsky said he also planned to leave the council.
The anger comes in response to the president’s mild-mannered criticism of racist rallies that took place in Charlottesville, Va. this weekend. Yesterday, Trump made remarks in a press conference that appeared to equate white nationalist hate groups with the counter-protesters who were there to oppose them.
Trump tweeted this morning that he planned to disband his manufacturing council and the Strategic and Policy Forum. But his decision reportedly came after members of the president’s councils decided in a phone call that they would all leave the group together, according to the New York Times.
The Strategic and Policy Forum held a phone call this morning to discuss a plan of action and the remaining members of the manufacturing council were slated to have a phone call this afternoon, the news outlet reported.
Trump retaliated against Merck’s CEO after Frazier announced that he planned to leave the manufacturing group on Monday, accusing the company of raising drug prices and sending manufacturing jobs out of the U.S.
“.@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!,” Trump tweeted.
The percentage of U.S.-based employees at Merck has stayed steady since Frazier became CEO in 2011 – around 38%, according to CNBC.
Trump has repeatedly criticized the pharmaceutical industry about its drug pricing practices and it has previously sent pharma stock prices down. But Trump’s attacks directed at Merck did not seem to deter investors and Merck shares were trading up 8% in morning activity on Monday.
Former Medtronic (NYSE:MDT) chairman & CEO, Bill George, penned an article for CNBC regarding the responsibility that executives have to stand up for their company’s values.
“As the public dialogue becomes more divisive, I anticipate that more business leaders will be taking public stands on behalf of the people and organizations they represent,” George wrote. “I admire their courage and willingness to do so. Even when we disagree with them, we should be respectful of their bravery to stand up and be counted when the issues matter the most.”
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