U.S. President Donald Trump delivers opening remarks at the beginning of a policy forum with (L-R) daughter Ivanka Trump, Global Infrastructure Partners Chairman Adebayo Ogunlesi, IBM CEO Ginni Rometty, PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi, Blackstone Group Chairman and CEO Stephen Schwarzman and other business leaders in the State Dining Room at the White House Feb. 3, in Washington, DC. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
President Donald Trump was forced to disband two key business advisory councils, Aug. 17, after some members of the panels rebuked the President for his incendiary remarks on the Virginia violence in which he apparently defended white nationalists, writes Lalit K. Jha.
The abrupt decision came after the Strategic and Policy Forum, comprised of JP Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon, PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi, General Motors CEO Mary Barra and Walmart CEO Doug McMillon, decided to abandon it.
The Strategic and Policy Forum and the White House Manufacturing Jobs Initiative were both dissolved amid a string of resignations from the chief executives of top American firms over his “ambiguous” response to the violence in Virginia.
Trump had established the Manufacturing Advisory Council in January after his swearing-in while the 16-member Strategic and Policy Forum was set up in December when he was the president-elect.
“Rather than putting pressure on the business people of the Manufacturing Council & Strategy & Policy Forum, I am ending both. Thank you all!” Trump said in a tweet.
As many as 11 CEOs in the advisory councils have quit so far.
A majority of them resigned after criticism mounted over Trump’s less-than-encouraging response to the weekend violence in Charlottesville (Virginia), where a car rammed into a crowd peacefully protesting against the rally by white supremacists, killing a 32-year-old woman.
Trump in his remarks had blamed both sides for the violence.
Earlier in the day, members of the Strategic Policy Forum in a joint statement said that intolerance, racism and violence have absolutely no place in the country and are an affront to core American values.
The President’s Strategic and Policy Forum was conceived as a bi-partisan group of business leaders called to serve our country by providing independent feedback and perspectives directly to the President on accelerating economic growth and job creation in the United States, the members said.
“We believe the debate over Forum participation has become a distraction from our well-intentioned and sincere desire to aid vital policy discussions on how to improve the lives of everyday Americans,” they said.
In a joint statement, the CEOs noted that job creation and supporting an inclusive pro-growth agenda remained important to the country’s progress.
“As such, the President and we are disbanding the Forum,” they said.
The Los Angeles Times said in a report: “The dissolution of the councils marks corporate America’s strongest repudiation yet of Trump, who ascended to the White House touting himself as the first CEO president.”
The Washington Post termed the development as a “major setback” to Trump’s relationship with the American business community.
JP Morgan Chase chief executive Jamie Dimon, a member of the Strategy & Policy Forum, according to the daily, told employees in a note that his group decided to disband following Trump’s news conference, in which he appeared to show sympathy for some of the people who marched alongside the neo-Nazis and white supremacists in Charlottesville.
“Constructive economic and regulatory policies are not enough and will not matter if we do not address the divisions in our country. It is a leader’s role, in business or government, to bring people together, not tear them apart,” Dimon wrote to his employees.
“Racism and murder are unequivocally reprehensible and are not morally equivalent to anything else that happened in Charlottesville,” Campbell Soup CEO Denise Morrison said in a statement before he announced his resignation.
“I believe the president should have been and still needs to be unambiguous on that point,” he added.
General Electric Chairman Jeff Immelt said, “The Committee I joined had the intention to foster policies that promote American manufacturing and growth. However, given the ongoing tone of the discussion, I no longer feel that this Council can accomplish these goals.”
“The President’s most recent statements equating those who are motivated by race-based hate with those who stand up against hatred is unacceptable and has changed our decision to participate in the White House Manufacturing Advisory Council,” said Johnson & Johnson chief executive officer Alex Gorsky, who had previously said he would remain on the manufacturing council to have a voice at the table.