The business community is railing against Trump’s horrifying response to the Charlottesville terror attack. Corporate leaders are stepping up to challenge Trump in the wake of his failure to condemn the murderous rampage of white nationalists. Businesses are overtly refuting Trump’s narrative and championing both diversity and inclusion. So far more than a half dozen CEOs have publicly resigned from their positions as presidential advisors. Trump initially refused to single out the racist groups that took part in the alt-right rally in Charlottesville and he did not condemn the hateful beliefs of white supremacists. Trump also conspicuously failed to mention the neo-nazi that murdered Heather Heyer and injured 19 others.
In response to events in Charlottesville, business leaders including Apple’s Tim Cook and Goldman Sachs’ Llloyd Blankfein called out the president.
Some companies are concerned that their brands are being co-opted by racists. The maker of tiki torches lamented the use of their products in a nighttime march by racists in Charlottesville. The torch maker said their, “products are designed to enhance backyard gatherings and to help family and friends connect with each other at home in their yard.”
When some alt-right supporters sported modified Detroit Red Wings emblems on their shirts and riot shields, the hockey team pushed back immediately. The club indicated that they were looking into legal action and they issued a statement that condemned the unauthorized use of their logo. “The Detroit Red Wings vehemently disagree with and are not associated in anyway with the event taking place today in Charlottesville,” the team said in a statement. “The Red Wings believe that Hockey is for Everyone and we celebrate the great diversity of our fanbase and our nation.” The NHL added, “This specific use is directly contrary to the value of inclusiveness that our League prioritizes and champions.”
Actions are also being taken to keep racist groups from using social media as a recruiting tool. The website GoDaddy dropped neo-Nazi website Dailystormer. GoDaddy’s digital crimes unit director Ben Butler told NBC News in an email:
“In instances where a site goes beyond the mere exercise of these freedoms and crosses over to promoting, encouraging, or otherwise engaging in violence against any person, we will take action. In our determination, especially given the
tragic events in Charlottesville, Dailystormer.com crossed the line and
encouraged and promoted violence.”
The racist site claimed it had switched to another provider however that provider (Google) quickly canceled Dailystormer’s registration.
This is not the Klu Klux Klan of yesteryear, almost everyone wants to distance themselves from these white supremacists. One business owner fired an employee who took part in the racist rally in Charlottesville. When an employee of Top Dog restaurant in Berkeley, California was revealed to have participated in the rally he was dismissed by the eatery. When another rally participant was identified as a student at the University of Nevada, Reno, the school released a statement condemning racism and white supremacy.
One of the most damning responses from the business community came from Kenneth Frazier, chairman and CEO of Merck Pharmaceutical. He resigned from Trump’s American Manufacturing Council and issued a scathing statement against the president.
“I am resigning from the President’s American Manufacturing Council. Our country’s strengths stems from its diversity and the contributions made by men and women of different faiths, races, sexual orientations and political beliefs. America’s leaders must honor 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 responsibility to take a stand against intolerance and extremism.”
The business community rallied including Unilever CEO Paul Polman who applauded Frazier saying on Twitter, “Thanks @Merck Ken Frazier for strong leadership to stand up for the moral values that made this country what it is”. Although it took two days for Trump to decry neo-nazis it took him less than an hour to fire off a hostile reply to Frazier’s resignation.
Other CEOs then followed Frazier and quit the President’s council. This includes Under Armor CEO Kevin Plank and Intel CEO Brian Krzanich who wrote a blog post that seemed to be a warning the American people:
“I resigned to call attention to the serious harm our divided political climate is causing to critical issues…Politics and political agendas have sidelined the important mission of rebuilding America’s manufacturing base…I have already made clear my abhorrence at the recent hate-spawned violence in Charlottesville, and earlier today I called on all leaders to condemn the white supremacists and their ilk who marched and committed violence…I resigned because I want to make progress, while many in Washington seem more concerned with attacking anyone who disagrees with them. We should honor–not attack–those who have stood up for equality and other cherished American values…it is clear even to me that nearly every issue is now politicized to the point where significant progress is impossible…The current environment must change, or else our nation will become a shadow of what it once was and what it still can and should be.”
In a statement, the Under Armor CEO said he was leaving the council because of the fact that his company, “engages in innovation and sports, not politics.” Plank concluded with a statement that was a tacit renunciation of Trump’s bigotry. He indicated that he will, “continue to focus my efforts on inspiring every person that they can do anything through the power of sport which promotes unity, diversity, and inclusion.”
At a Tuesday press conference, Trump appeared to peel back his paper-thin veneer and share his true unscripted thoughts on the Charlottesville tragedy. In a monumental rant even for Trump, he defended the actions of the alt-right. In response, AFL-CIO president Richard Louis Trumka immediately resigned from the presidential advisory council. Trumka tweeted:
“I cannot sit on a council for a President that tolerates bigotry and domestic terrorism; I resign, effective immediately…President Trump’s remarks today repudiate his forced remarks yesterday about the KKK and neo-Nazis. We must resign on behalf of America’s working people, who reject all notions of legitimacy of these bigoted groups.” Trumka called Trump’s most recent remarks “the last straw.” He concluded by saying, “From hollow councils to bad policy and embracing bigotry, the actions of this administration have consistently failed working people”.
These were but the latest round of business advisors abandoning Trump. Former Uber CEO Travis Kalanick quit Trump due to the president’s executive order on immigration in February. Tesla’s Elon Musk and Disney’s Bob Iger departed in June after Trump announced he was pulling the US out of the Paris climate accord.
The fact that such public disagreements are occurring suggests that these CEOs see both social and commercial value in coming out against Trump. Many corporate leaders have come to the conclusion that distancing themselves from this president is not only morally necessary, it is a smart strategic move that makes economic sense.
Businesses are abandoning Trump and this is a serious blow to an unpopular president who claims to be good for business. Although Trump takes credit for the economic cycle of his predecessor, many in the business community are not buying it and they are unabashedly sharing their dissatisfaction.
Slightly more than 200 days into his presidency and Trump is proving beyond a shadow of a doubt that his administration is a dismal failure. This brings us back to Charlottesville.
Rather than condemn Nazi terrorism Trump’s first comment lamented the violence on “many sides”. This prompted a wave of criticism from members of his own party. After a couple of days and under duress Trump condemned white supremacist groups.
This was followed by a Trump tower press conference in which the president defended alt-right extremists. These shockingly raw remarks are a window into the unscripted Trump and they warrant profound concern. The president’s repugnant conduct can only be explained by the sinister symbiotic relationship between Trump and the alt-right.
The dark truth is that the alt-right helped Trump to win the election and they make up the core of his base. The Charlottesville events may presage an even darker future. Trump may be planning to use militant white supremacists in the alt-right as Brownshirt-like shock troops. They can be expected to defend his presidency when the Mueller investigation concludes and the prospect of impeachment looms.
We are on the cusp one of the greatest challenges ever to befall the United States. Never before has corporate America been more important to the future of the Republic. Let the record show that members of the business community are lighting the way forward and publicly condemning a commander and chief who is unfit to lead.