During a critical time for business leaders, CEOs and other company leaders have faced decisions. Some chose to remove themselves from White House business councils after President Donald Trump did not immediately disavow white supremacy after violent protests in Charlottesville, Va., left one counter-protester dead and many others injured.
Trump blamed “both sides” for the violence that struck last weekend. And he doubled down on these remarks later.
“You had many people in that group other than neo-Nazis and white nationalists, okay?” Trump said. “And the press has treated them absolutely unfairly.”
Some counter-protesters were “fine people,” the president added, but some were also “troublemakers” in “black outfits and with the helmets and with the baseball bats … You had a lot of bad people in the other group.”
CEOs have a duty to respond — and people are listening. Author and filmmaker Michael Moore took to Twitter late Tuesday night to call for a boycott against companies and brands that have not stepped down from any of Trump’s councils.
Send a message to the CEOs on Trump’s Advisory Councils. Boycott GM & Ford cars, Campbell Soup, Dell Computers, Whirlpool appliances…
— Michael Moore (@MMFlint) August 16, 2017
…Walmart, Pepsi, anything by GE, IBM computers, Dow Ziplock bags, 3M Post-It Notes, Tylenol, Corningware and Motrin. Boycott them all.
— Michael Moore (@MMFlint) August 16, 2017
U.S. military leaders also took to Twitter to condemn the hatred and bigotry.
— Adm. John Richardson (@CNORichardson) August 13, 2017
No place for racial hatred or extremism in @USMC. Our core values of Honor, Courage, and Commitment frame the way Marines live and act.
— Robert B. Neller (@GenRobertNeller) August 15, 2017
The Army doesn’t tolerate racism, extremism, or hatred in our ranks. It’s against our Values and everything we’ve stood for since 1775.
— GEN Mark A. Milley (@ArmyChiefStaff) August 16, 2017
— Gen. Dave Goldfein (@GenDaveGoldfein) August 16, 2017
Some CEOs have opted to speak out against Trump, with some taking action and leaving his councils. Here’s who’s left and who’s out.
Manufacturing Jobs Initiative
Trump announced this initiative in January and tapped “some of the world’s most successful and creative business leaders.”
Andrew Liveris, The Dow Chemical Company
Liveris has not indicated that he will leave the council. He issued a statement on the company’s Twitter page and said, “Dow will continue to work to strengthen the social and economic fabric of the communities where it operates.
— Dow (@DowChemical) August 14, 2017
Bill Brown, Harris Corporation
Brown does not appear to have made a public statement at this time.
Michael Dell, Dell Technologies
A spokesperson for Dell (No. 26 on the DiversityInc 2017 Top 50 Companies for Diversity list) reported to Business Insider: “While we wouldn’t comment on any member’s personal decision, there’s no change in Dell engaging with the Trump administration and governments around the world to share our perspective on policy issues that affect our company, customers, and employees.”
John Ferriola, Nucor Corporation
Ferriola will remain on the council. The company reported to Fortune, “At Nucor, we condemn the violence that occurred this past weekend in Charlottesville and reject the hate, bigotry, and racism expressed at the demonstration. As North America’s largest steel producer, Nucor has engaged with several administrations to work on policies that help strengthen the U.S. manufacturing sector and provide opportunities for American workers. We believe a strong manufacturing sector is the backbone of a strong economy, and we will continue to serve as a member of the White House Manufacturing Jobs Initiative.”
Jeff Fettig, Whirlpool Corporation
Fettig will remain on the council. According to the LA Times, “Whirlpool said its CEO, Jeff Fettig, is staying on the council to “represent our industry, our 15,000 U.S. workers, and to provide input and advice on ways to create jobs and strengthen U.S. manufacturing competitiveness.” (Fettig announced in June that he will be stepping down as CEO of Whirlpool, effective Oct. 1.)
Ken Frazier, Merck & Co., Inc.
Frazier was the first to announce his departure on Monday. The company posted Frazier’s statement on Twitter. (The only person of color to have been on the council, Frazier was also the only one Trump called out personally via Twitter.)
— Merck (@Merck) August 14, 2017
Alex Gorsky, Johnson & Johnson
Johnson & Johnson’s (No. 5) Gorsky will remain on the council. Business Insider reported an emailed statement attributed to Gorsky:
“At Johnson & Johnson we are deeply saddened by the horrific events that occurred in Charlottesville this past weekend. Intolerance, racism, and violence have no place in our society. Several members have made the decision to leave President Trump’s White House Manufacturing Advisory Council, and I respect their decision as a matter of personal conscience. Given the events of the past few days, I can understand the concerns—even the fear—that some people have expressed. These are difficult days for everyone. In the end, I have concluded that Johnson & Johnson has a responsibility to remain engaged, not as a way to support any specific political agenda, but as a way to represent the values of Our Credo as crucial public policy is discussed and developed.”
Greg Hayes, United Technologies Corp.
Hayes does not appear to have made a public statement at this time.
Marilynn Hewson, Lockheed Martin Corporation
Hewson appears to be remaining on the council. The company reported to ThinkProgress, “Thanks for checking in. Marillyn Hewson is a member of the manufacturing council. We don’t have a comment.”
Jeff Immelt, General Electric
Immelt will remain on the council. Several media outlets reported a company representative as saying that “it is important for GE to participate in the discussion on how to drive growth and productivity in the U.S.” For this reason, “Jeff Immelt will remain on the Presidential Committee on American Manufacturing while he is the chairman of GE.”
Jim Kamsickas, Dana Inc.
Hayes does not appear to have made a public statement at this time.
Brian Krzanich, Intel Corporation
Krzanich resigned Monday evening. His statement reads, in part:
“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. I hope this will change, and I remain willing to serve when it does.”
Rich Kyle, The Timken Company
Kyle does not appear to have made a public statement at this time.
Denise Morrison, Campbell Soup Company
Morrison initially planned to stay on the council but changed gears on Wednesday. Originally, according to CNBC, “Campbell Soup CEO Denise Morrison will remain on the council to ‘have a voice and provide input’ on matters concerning the company, Campbell Soup said in a statement.”
According to Business Insider, Morrison later stated:
“Racism and murder are unequivocally reprehensible and are not morally equivalent to anything else that happened in Charlottesville. I believe the President should have been – and still needs to be – unambiguous on that point.”
Dennis Muilenburg, Boeing
The St. Louis Post Dispatch reported that Boeing’s (a DiversityInc Noteworthy Company) Muilenburg plans to stay on the committee but did not provide any additional statement or information.
Scott Paul, Alliance for American Manufacturing
Paul left the council on Tuesday afternoon. In a simple tweet Paul said, “I’m resigning from the Manufacturing Jobs Initiative because it’s the right thing for me to do.”
Kevin Plank, Under Armour
The athletic company’s CEO was the second to announce he would be leaving the council.
I love our country & company. I am stepping down from the council to focus on inspiring & uniting through power of sport. – CEO Kevin Plank pic.twitter.com/8YvndJMjj1
— Under Armour (@UnderArmour) August 15, 2017
(Notably, Plank came under intense criticism from Under Armour athletes and many others for his apparent praise of Trump in February — just around the time of the height of the controversy surrounding Trump’s Muslim ban.)
Michael Polk, Newell Brands
Polk will remain on the council. According to Business Insider, he said in a statement, in part, “With a large portion of our business in the U.S., including a manufacturing footprint of more than 60 factories and 15,000 employees (and counting), it is in our best interests to have a voice in the conversations that can influence the environment in which we work.”
Mark Sutton, International Paper
Sutton will remain on the council. According to CNBC, a spokesperson said Sutton is staying to “work to strengthen the social and economic fabric of communities across the country by creating employment opportunities in manufacturing,”
Inge Thulin, 3M
Inge Thulin left the manufacturing council on Wednesday. His statement reads, in part, “I joined the Manufacturing Jobs Initiative in January to advocate for policies that align with our values and encourage even stronger investment and job growth – in order to make the United States stronger, healthier and more prosperous for all people. After careful consideration, I believe the initiative is no longer an effective vehicle for 3M to advance these goals. As a result, today I am resigning from the Manufacturing Advisory Council.”
Richard Trumka, AFL-CIO
Trumka exited the council on Tuesday. In a tweet along with his statement he said, “I cannot sit on a council for a President that tolerates bigotry and domestic terrorism; I resign, effective immediately.”
I cannot sit on a council for a President that tolerates bigotry and domestic terrorism; I resign, effective immediately. pic.twitter.com/ip6F2nsoog
— Richard L. Trumka (@RichardTrumka) August 15, 2017
Wendell Weeks, Corning
Weeks does not appear to have made a public statement at this time.
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.
Strategic and Policy Forum
According to a release from December, “The Forum, which is composed of some of America’s most highly respected and successful business leaders, will be called upon to meet with the President frequently to share their specific experience and knowledge as the President implements his economic agenda.”
Bob Igor, CEO of the Walt Disney Company (No. 36), and Tesla’s CEO Musk both stepped away from the council in response to Trump’s departure from the Paris climate accord. Former Uber CEO Travis Kalanick also left the council, with his exit following Trump’s Muslim ban.
Walmart (a DiversityInc 2017 Noteworthy Company) CEO Doug McMillon also sits on the council. He released a statement posted to Walmart’s website strongly criticizing Trump’s response to Charlottesville.
“As we watched the events and the response from President Trump over the weekend, we too felt that he missed a critical opportunity to help bring our country together by unequivocally rejecting the appalling actions of white supremacists,” McMillon said in part. “His remarks today were a step in the right direction and we need that clarity and consistency in the future.”
He added that today’s climate “require[s] our elected officials, business leaders and community-based organizations to work together.”
Trump responded to McMillon’s statement in a press conference:
“The country is booming, the stock market is setting record, we have the highest employment numbers we’ve ever had in the history of our country. We are doing record business. We have the highest levels of enthusiasm, so the head of Walmart, who I know, who’s a very nice guy, was making a political statement. I mean, I would do it the same way, you know why? Because I want to make sure when I make a statement that the statement is correct. And there was no way – no way – of making a correct statement that early. I had to see the facts, unlike a lot of reporters.”
Notably, though, McMillon has publicly opposed Trump’s policies before and has still remained on the council. Earlier this year Walmart joined Americans for Affordable Products, a coalition of dozens of companies opposed to Trump’s Border Adjustment Tax (BAT).
Stephen Schwarzman, CEO of Blackstone and chair of the Forum, came to Trump’s defense regarding Trump’s “many sides” comment.
“I thought he was talking about the violence on both sides,” Schwarzman said, according to Bloomberg. “I don’t think it was a far-reaching statement.”
He changed his tune on Monday, Bloomberg reported.
“Bigotry, hatred and extremism are an affront to core American values and have no place in this country,” Schwarzman said in an emailed statement, according to the publication. “Encouraging tolerance and understanding must be a core national imperative and I will work to further that goal.”
No one else on the council appears to have made a public comment yet. The remaining members include:
Mary Barra, Chairman and CEO, General Motors
Larry Fink, Chairman and CEO, BlackRock
Rich Lesser, President and CEO, Boston Consulting Group
Jim McNerney, former Chairman, President and CEO, Boeing
Paul Atkins, Patomak Global Partners
Kevin Warsh, Scholar, Stanford University’s Hoover Institution
Toby Cosgrove, President and CEO, Cleveland Clinic
Jamie Dimon, Chairman, President and CEO, JPMorgan Chase
Dan Yergin, Vice Chairman, IHS Markit
Jack Welch, former Chairman and CEO, General Electric
Mark Weinberger, Global Chairman and CEO, EY (No. 1)
Adebayo Ogunlesi, Chairman and Managing Partner, Global Infrastructure Partners
Virginia Rometty, Chairman, President and CEO, IBM
Indra Nooyi, Chairman and CEO, PepsiCo