President Donald Trump announced via Twitter on Wednesday afternoon that he was eliminating his two business councils. According to sources, however, one of the groups already planned to disband after more CEOs revealed they would be exiting.
Rather than putting pressure on the businesspeople of the Manufacturing Council & Strategy & Policy Forum, I am ending both. Thank you all!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 16, 2017
While Trump was trying to clinch the Republican nomination when running for president, he garnered a lot of support due to his status as a businessman and being an outsider from politics, according to a 2016 Gallup poll. However, his two business councils have both fallen apart less than one year after he took office.
The two latest CEOs to depart left on Wednesday. Denise Morrison, CEO of Campbell Soup Company, was initially slated to remain on the council but changed her mind by Wednesday. 3M’s chief executive Inge Thulin had largely been quiet on the issue but revealed Wednesday he would leave the council as well.
In addition to Morrison and Thulin, the only other CEOs who left the council before it was disbanded were:
Kenneth Frazier, Merck
Kevin Plank, Under Armour
Scott Paul, the Alliance for American Manufacturing
Brian Krzanich, Intel
Richard Trumka, AFL-CIO
According to CNN Money, leaders from Johnson & Johnson (No. 5 on the DiversityInc 2017 Top 50 Companies for Diversity list), United Technologies and General Electric had made the decision to leave the council just before Trump sent out his tweet.
J&J CEO Alex Gorsky initially planned to stay on the council but changed his mind after Trump equated the white supremacists at last weekend’s rally to the counter-protesters.
“At that time, I believed the best place to speak out was as a member of the White House Manufacturing Advisory Council, by having a seat at that table,” Gorsky said in a statement. “But the president’s remarks yesterday — equating those who are motivated by race-based hate with those who stand up against hatred — were unacceptable.
“Good leadership requires being open to new information, and acknowledging that when circumstances change, you must reconsider your position — especially when the issue at hand speaks to your values and the values your organization is built upon.”
GE’s Chairman Jeff Immelt in a statement called Trump’s remarks “deeply troubling.”
“There would be no GE without people of all races, religions, genders and sexual orientations. GE has no tolerance for hate, bigotry, racism, and the white supremacist extremism that the country witnessed in Charlottesville last weekend,” Immelt said.
Greg Hayes, chairman and CEO of United Technologies, said that after the events in Charlottesville, “it is clear that we need to collectively stand together and denounce the politics of hate, intolerance and racism. The values that are the cornerstone of our culture: tolerance, diversity, empathy and trust, must be reaffirmed by our actions every day.”
Mark Fields, formerly of Ford Motor Company; Klaus Kleinfeld, formerly of Arconic; and Mario Longhi, formerly of US Steel, have all exited their companies since January and did not retain their seats on the council, according to Business Insider.
Thea Lee, formerly with AFL-CIO, had remained on the council following her departure but stepped down this week.
Doug Oberhelman retired from Caterpillar at the beginning of this year. Reports from Recode and the New York Times appear to indicate he did not leave the council at that time.
Elon Musk of Tesla stepped down from the council following Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris climate accord.
CNN Money reported that Steve Schwarzman, CEO of Blackman and chair of the Strategy and Policy Forum, spoke with members of the group early on Wednesday. Many of them had already planned to leave the group but decided on the call to do away with the council entirely.