President Trump’s slow-motion condemnation of violence by white supremacists in Charlottesville, Va., continues to separate the businessman-turned-politician from corporate America.
Doug McMillon, chief executive officer of Wal-Mart Stores Inc., issued a rebuke to the president, noting in a statement posted on the company’s web site that: “Respect for the individual is one of our core beliefs at Wal-Mart….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.”
McMillon, who remains on Trump’s Manufacturing Advisory Council, said, “We believe we should stay engaged to try to influence decisions in a positive way and help bring people together.”
Under Armour ceo Kevin Plank made a different calculation and stepped down from the council late Monday, following Kenneth Frazier, who is head of pharmaceutical giant Merck and who resigned from the board earlier that day.
In February, Plank came under fire from customers and celebrity endorsers on the Under Armour payroll when he lauded Trump as “pro-business” and said, “I’m a big fan of people that operate in the world of ‘publish and iterate’ versus ‘think, think, think, think, think.’”
By Monday, Plank seemed burned by the political process.
“I joined the American Manufacturing Council because I believed it was important for Under Armour to have an active seat at the table and represent our industry,” he said. “We remain resolute in our potential and ability to improve American manufacturing. However, Under Armour engages in innovation and sports, not politics.”
Trump on Saturday referred to violence “on many sides” while speaking of clashes in Charlottesville, where a man drove his car into a crowd of people protesting a white supremacist rally, killing one woman. He did not single out racist groups by name.
But after several days of steady criticism, the president added, “Those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs, including the KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and other hate groups that are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans.”
McMillion, in his statement, said that clarity was needed.
While he was compelled to amend his statement, Trump has remained his pugilist self on Twitter, noting Tuesday: “For every CEO that drops out of the Manufacturing Council, I have many to take their place. Grandstanders should not have gone on. JOBS!”
Ceo’s can usually be expected to covet presidential face time, vying for opportunities to push forward their own regulatory preferences. But that so many prominent executives have publically stood up to Trump, shows how his sway is waning. When it comes to angering the White House or Main Street, ceo’s at retailers and fashion brands remain very aware of whose money is going into their cash registers.
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