CEOs Leave President Trump's Business Advisory Councils

TempSeveral CEOs have left or were planning to leave President Trump's business advisory councils after his response to the Charlottesville, VA, incident. President Trump has been stalwart in blaming "both sides" of the protests in Charlottesville, which escalated in violence. For some CEOs, the response wasn't strong enough in condemning white supremacists. In a news conference, President Trump said there was violence among the liberal contingent as well as those wanting to, for example, defend confederate statues. He drew an analogy between George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, who owned slaves, with Robert E. Lee, who led the confederate army during the U.S. civil war.

Merck chief executive Ken Frazier was the first to resign from the president's manufacturing council. Others filed suit, and still others planned to resign, including Indra Nooyi of Pepsi, Jamie Dimon of JP Morgan, Alex Gorsky of J&J, and Jeff Immelt of GE.

Doug McMillon, Walmart's chief executive, has been vocal and has faced criticism from Walmart customers. In a memo to employees, McMillion explained his position:

 Respect for the individual is one of our core beliefs at Walmart. And the role we play in communities around the country to build a more diverse and inclusive society is more critical than ever as the tragic events in Charlottesville over the weekend painfully reminded us. Our prayers are with the victims and their families. 

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. His remarks today were a step in the right direction and we need that clarity and consistency in the future.

Our country is facing some very difficult issues that require our elected officials, business leaders and community-based organizations to work together. 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. I will continue to strongly advocate on behalf of our associates and customers, and urge our elected officials to do their part to promote a more just, tolerant and diverse society. 

Thank you for representing Walmart and our values today -- and every day.

Before another group, inspired by Nooyi of Pepsi, could resign, President Trump decided to disband all of his business advisory councils. The decision is a blow to the president, who prided himself on his business relationships when taking office.

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  • Did these business leaders do the right thing? Why or why not?
  • What did it take for Merck's CEO to take the lead, and for Pepsi's CEO to inspire the next wave? What was at risk for both of them and for other CEOs?
  • Besides addressing the Charlottesville situation differently, what could President Trump have done differently to maintain his relationships with these business leaders?