As President Trump's two major business councils fell apart this week over his response to the race-fueled violence in Charlottesville, the president said he was disbanding both of the groups. He tweeted Wednesday: "Rather than putting pressure on the businesspeople of the Manufacturing Council & Strategy & Policy Forum, I am ending both. Thank you all!"
By the time Trump made the announcement Wednesday, one-fourth of the original members of the American Manufacturing Council had already resigned. Meanwhile, members of the Strategic and Policy Forum, another group of prominent CEOs, had been debating dissolving the group, the New York Times reported.
The disbanding of the councils is a major blow to Trump, who frequently touts his business experience and ability to work with economic leaders.
The councils began to fall apart after the CEO of the pharmaceutical company Merck, Kenneth Frazier, resigned from the manufacturing council Monday morning. Other council members then faced mounting pressure to resign. The hashtag #QuitTheCouncil was trending on Twitter on Tuesday.
A cascade of resignations — and denunciations of Trump — began after Tuesday's press conference in which Trump defended white supremacists.
"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," said Johnson & Johnson CEO Alex Gorsky, who stepped down Wednesday afternoon.
"Racism and murder are unequivocally reprehensible and are not morally equivalent to anything else that happened in Charlottesville. I believe the President should have been – and still needs to be – unambiguous on that point," said Campbell Soup CEO Denise Morrison.
Jamie Dimon, the chief executive of JP Morgan Chase, addressed the Strategic and Policy Forum's decision to disband on Wednesday. "There is no room for equivocation here: the evil on display by these perpetrators of hate should be condemned," Dimon said in a statement. "It is a leader's role, in business or government, to bring people together, not tear them apart."
In a statement, a representative from the Strategic and Policy Forum 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. As such, the President and we are disbanding the Forum."
Here is the forum's full statement, sent to BuzzFeed News:
As our members have expressed individually over the past several days, intolerance, racism and violence have absolutely no place in this 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. 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. As such, the President and we are disbanding the Forum. Job creation and supporting an inclusive pro-growth agenda remain vitally important to the progress of our country. As Americans, we are all united in our desire to see our country succeed.
BuzzFeed News has reached out to the White House and to council members for comment.
Venessa Wong is a business reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York. Wong covers the food industry.
Contact Venessa Wong at email@example.com.
Molly Hensley-Clancy is a politics reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Washington, DC.
Contact Molly Hensley-Clancy at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Got a confidential tip? Submit it here.