Two AFL-CIO leaders quit Trump's manufacturing council, say he 'tolerates bigotry'

Los Angeles Times

President Trump on Tuesday ripped three top corporate chief executives who resigned from his manufacturing council in protest of his handling of the Charlottesville, Va., violence, calling them "grandstanders” and saying they were embarrassed because they made their products abroad.

Trump's criticism came as three other members of the council announced they were stepping down as well.

Trump said on Twitter that "for every CEO that drops out of the Manufacturing Council, I have many to take their place."

He then said that "grandstanders should not have gone on" the council, which Trump formed shortly after taking office in January.

Trump described former FBI Director James B. Comey as "a grandstander" in a May interview with NBC in explaining why he fired him.

Later Tuesday, in an appearance in the lobby of Trump Tower, Trump told reporters that the executives who resigned from his advisory council were “not taking their jobs seriously as it pertains to this country.”

He specifically said Merck was manufacturing drugs abroad, even though he praised Merck last month for a new U.S. manufacturing initiative with two other companies.

“Some of the folks that will leave [the council], they’re leaving out of embarrassment because they make their products outside. I’ve been lecturing them … about you have to bring it back to this country,” Trump said. “I want manufacturing to be back into the United States so that American workers can benefit.”

Kenneth Frazier, chief executive of Merck & Co., publicly announced Monday that he was stepping down from the council because he felt “a responsibility to take a stand against intolerance and extremism.”

One of the nation's most prominent African American executives, Frazier did not mention Trump by name.

But Trump had been criticized for not explicitly condemning white supremacists after violent clashes with counter-protestors turned deadly in the Virginia college town Saturday.

Trump lashed out at Frazier on Twitter, criticizing Merck for what he said were its high drug prices.

Although Trump issued a statement later Monday specifically denouncing "the KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists and other hate groups," that didn't stop the fallout.

Kevin Plank, chief executive of Under Armour Inc., and Brian Krzanich, chief executive of Intel Corp., issued statements Monday night that they were stepping down as well.

Then on Tuesday, there were more departures.

Scott Paul, president of the Alliance for American Manufacturing, a trade group of business and the United Steelworkers union, announced he was stepping down.

And after Trump in his comments to reporters at Trump Tower again blamed the Charlottesville violence on “both sides,” as he had on Saturday, two members of the council from the AFL-CIO also said they were leaving.

“We cannot sit on a council for a president who tolerates bigotry and domestic terrorism,” said a joint statement from Richard Trumka, the labor union’s president, and Thea Lee, its chief of staff.

”President Trump’s remarks today repudiate his forced remarks yesterday about the KKK and neo-Nazis,” the two said.

In a statement released Tuesday, Doug McMillon, chief executive of Wal-Mart Stores Inc., criticized Trump’s initial response to the Charlottesville violence.

McMillon said in the statement, which had been emailed to company employees Monday, that Trump “missed a critical opportunity to help bring our country together by unequivocally rejecting the appalling actions of white supremacists.”

But McMillon, who serves on a different White House business council, the President’s Strategic and Policy Forum, said Trump’s comments Monday “were a step in the right direction, and we need that clarity and consistency in the future.”

McMillon indicated he would continue to be part of the group, just as several members of the manufacturing council have done while decrying the violence.

“Our country is facing some very difficult issues that require our elected officials, business leaders and community-based organizations to work together,” McMillon said.

“Representing a company with the largest and one of the most diverse groups of associates in the U.S., and an even more diverse customer base of tens of millions of customers, we believe we should stay engaged to try to influence decisions in a positive way and help bring people together,” he said.

Trump told reporters Tuesday that McMillon was “a very nice guy” but was “making a political statement.”

Former Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers, who was a top economic advisor to President Obama, said Tuesday that all the CEOs on the advisory councils should resign.

"No advisor committed to the bipartisan American traditions of government can possibly believe he or she is being effective at this point," Summers wrote in a column in the Washington Post. "And all should feel ashamed for complicity in Mr. Trump’s words and deeds. I sometimes wonder how they face their children."

Twitter: @JimPuzzanghera

jim.puzzanghera@latimes.com

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