World

CEOs ditch Trump after he fails to condemn bigots

NEW YORK: The chief executives of Merck, Intel and Under Armour resigned from a White House advisory panel on manufacturing after US President Donald Trump's initial failure to explicitly condemn a white supremacist rally that turned violent over the weekend.

The resignations came as criticism grew over Mr Trump's slow response to the demonstration, which ended in bloodshed when a Nazi sympathiser ploughed his car into a crowd of anti-racism protesters, killing one and wounding 19.

Mr Trump initially blamed "many sides" for Saturday's violence, sparking a welter of criticism and prompting Merck CEO Kenneth Frazier, a prominent African-American businessman, to quit the panel.

"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 men are created equal," Mr Frazier wrote on Twitter.

"As CEO of Merck and as a matter of personal conscience, I feel a responsibility to take a stand against intolerance and extremism."

Mr Trump did not wait long to respond. "Now that Ken Frazier of Merck Pharma has resigned from President's Manufacturing Council, he will have more time to LOWER RIPOFF DRUG PRICES!" he wrote.

In a later post, the President accused Merck of being "a leader" in escalating drug prices and taking jobs out of the US.

Several hours later, Under Armour founder and CEO Kevin Plank also stepped down.

"Under Armour engages in innovation and sports, not politics," he said in a subtly-worded statement. "I love our country and our company, and will continue to focus my efforts on inspiring every person that they can do anything through the power of sports, which promotes unity, diversity and inclusion."

Intel chief Brian Krzanich was next, saying in a blunt statement that he wanted to "call attention to the serious harm our divided political climate is causing to critical issues". - AFP

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