President Trump’s delayed condemnation of the neo-Nazis in Charlottesville seems to be taking a toll among his more mainstream support. In the wake of this weekend’s riots, three corporate CEOs who had been a part of the president’s council on manufacturing jobs abruptly resigned and the president’s approval rating has plummeted to its lowest point ever.
Merck CEO Kenneth Frazier was the first CEO to jump ship. In a tweet on Monday, August 15, Frazier explicitly linked his resignation to Trump’s silence on the Nazis who claimed to be part of the Trump movement.
In part, Frazier’s statement reads, “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.” He added, “As CEO of Merck and as a matter of personal conscience, I feel a responsibility to take a stand against intolerance and extremism.”
Later on Monday, Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank and Intel CEO Brian Krzanich both left the council as well. Business Insider quotes Plank in a statement that says Under Armour “engages in innovation and sports, not politics.”
Krzanich said, “I resigned to call attention to the serious harm our divided political climate is causing to critical issues, including the serious need to address the decline of American manufacturing. Politics and political agendas have sidelined the important mission of rebuilding America’s manufacturing base.”
President Trump responded to the resignation of Merck’s Frazier with a tweet on Monday that attacked Merck for high 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!”
A second tweet on August 15 addressed the subsequent resignations of Plank and Krzanich. “For every CEO that drops out of the Manufacturing Council, I have many to take their place,” Trump tweeted. “Grandstanders should not have gone on. JOBS!”
After the president’s second tweet, Scott Paul, president of the Alliance for American Manufacturing, tweeted that he too was leaving the council. “I’m resigning from the Manufacturing Jobs Initiative because it’s the right thing for me to do,” Paul said.
At the same time, Gallup released a three-day polling average that showed President Trump’s approval rating at 34 percent, its lowest level ever, with 61 percent disapproval. The poll ran from Friday through Sunday so it partially reflected the events in Charlottesville.
The American Manufacturing Council was set up by President Trump to allow corporate CEOs to advise him on manufacturing policy. Twenty corporate CEOs remain on the council. One additional member of the council, Elon Musk of Tesla, had previously resigned to protest Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris climate change accords.
On Monday, two days after the Charlottesville riots, President Trump issued a more forceful and specific statement denouncing the white supremacist movement. It is interesting to note that his tweet attacking Merck came only 10 hours after Frazier’s resignation. The response time after Plank and Krzanich quit was even shorter.