3 CEOs Quit Trump's Council Over Charlottesville, But Only Ken Frazier Was Singled Out
Three high-profile corporate leaders abandoned President Trump's controversial business advisory council on Monday. It put serious dent in his perceived respect within the corporate world amid his widely panned response to the white supremacist demonstration and attacks in Charlottesville, VA. over the weekend. And yet, despite the fact that three CEOs walked away from Trump's business council, only one of them was named and shamed by the president on Twitter: Kenneth Frazier, the chief executive office of the pharmaceutical company Merck.
Frazier was the first CEO to pull the plug on the business council experiment on Monday, which might account for why he bore the brunt of Trump's public backlash. Given the events of the last several days, however ― in which Trump initially refused to specifically condemn white supremacy, before seemingly being pressured into doing so by the media and public outcry, then getting testy when many people still weren't satisfied ― it's hard to overlook the potential racial element of Trump's attack.
Namely, Trump publicly attacked the only non-white CEO of the three. "Now that Ken Frazier of Merck Pharma has resigned from President's Manufacturing Council,he will have more time to LOWER RIPOFF DRUG PRICES!" Trump tweeted on Monday. The other two CEOs who left his council, Under Armour chief Kevin Plank and Intel chief Brian Krzanich, are both white. Frazier, on the other hand, is black.
As some pointed out on Monday, Trump was much quicker to attack Frazier than he was to explicitly condemn white supremacist violence in Charlottesville. The latter took him a couple days to get around to, after his first statement blaming violence and hatred "on many sides," while he tweeted about Frazier less than an hour after news of his departure from the council broke.
On Tuesday, more than 24 hours after his hostile tweet about Frazier, he got around to attacking Plank and Krzanich as well, although notably, he still didn't go after either of them by name, nor specifically call out the products their companies produce.
It's possible there's a political strategy behind this, however ― stirring up discord over high prescription drug prices might be a more effective political maneuver than complaining about the cost of computers or athletic apparel, although it does raise the question of why Trump had Frazier on the council to begin with.
This much is clear, however: when it comes to public optics around race and racism, critical members of the public and media are way past giving Trump the benefit of the doubt. After all, the signals he sends to those white supremacist members of his base, whether overtly or covertly, can have a big perceptual effect ― many racists and neo-Nazis, for example, were reportedly heartened by how much arm-twisting it took to get him to call out their cause after Charlottesville, taken as an indication that deep down, the president did not actually have a problem with them.