The chief executives of Intel Corp, Merck & Co Inc and Under Armour Inc. resigned from U.S. President Donald Trump's American Manufacturing Council on Monday, following Trump's initially tepid response to weekend violence at a rally of white supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia.
"I resigned from the council to call attention to the serious harm our divided political climate is causing to critical issues...," Intel Chief Executive Brian Krzanich said in a blog post.
Kenneth Fraizer, the chief executive of drugmaker Merck and an African-American, said he left the advisory council because of the president's reaction after the violence between white supremacists and counter protesters. Frazier cited the need to "take a stand against intolerance and extremism."
The AFL-CIO, a federation of labor unions that represent12.5 million workers, said it was considering pulling its representative on the committee.
Violent weekend, tepid response
After the white nationalist rally turned deadly Saturday, Trump initially said that many sides were to blame. On Monday, in a statement, Trump denounced neo-Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan as criminals and thugs, bowing to mounting political pressure as critics assailed him for not singling out white supremacists.
The CEO of Under Armour, Kevin Plank, announced his resignation from the council in a Twitter posting.
"We remain resolute in our potential and ability to improve American manufacturing," said Plank. "However, Under Armour engages in innovation and sports, not politics."
Plank was criticized last winter by some of Under Armour's biggest stars over his support of Trump, comments that basketball star Stephen Curry echoed.
The demonstration in Charlottesville by hundreds of white nationalists took a deadly turn Saturday when a car plowed into a group of counter protesters and killed one person.
"America's leaders must honor our fundamental views 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 in a statement announcing his resignation.
"As CEO of Merck and as a matter of personal conscience, I feel a responsibility to take a stand against intolerance and extremism," he said.
Now that Ken Frazier of Merck Pharma has resigned from President's Manufacturing Council,he will have more time to LOWER RIPOFF DRUG PRICES!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 14, 2017
Trump responded shortly later in a tweet, saying, "Ken Frazier of Merck Pharma has resigned from President's Manufacturing Council, he will have more time to LOWER RIPOFF DRUG PRICES!"
.@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!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 14, 2017
Trump doubled down on his attack later in the day, tweeting that Merck "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!"
Others execs left other panels
The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, which represents the pharmaceutical industry and lobbies on its behalf in Congress, declined to offer a statement of support for Frazier or to comment on Trump's reaction.
The industry's silence comes as Trump is finalizing an executive order on drug prices that would relax industry regulation and contains measures that, some say, would protect existing drug prices or even increase them.
Individually, at least one CEO, John Maraganore of Alnylam Pharmaceuticals, tweeted his support, saying he was "proud to stand with leaders like Ken Frazier."
Several executives from top U.S. companies have previously stepped down from a number of presidential advisory councils in protest to Trump policies.
Tesla Inc CEO Elon Musk and Walt Disney Co CEO Robert Iger left the President's Strategic and Policy Forum, a business advisory group, in June, after Trump said he would withdraw from the Paris climate accord. Musk also left the manufacturing council.
Former Uber Technologies Inc CEO Travis Kalanick quit the business advisory council in February amid pressure from activists and employees who opposed the administration's immigration policies.