US President Donald Trump announced the disbanding of two business advisory councils after several chief executives quit the panels in protest over Trump’s response to the weekend violence in Charlottesville, Virginia.
The American Manufacturing Council and the Strategic and Policy Forum were dissolved after eight CEOs, including Campbell Soup chief Denise Morrison and 3M head Inge Thulin, resigned from the high-profile advisory bodies.
Both of the councils were moving to disband on their own when Trump made his announcement on Twitter, Reuters reports.
Trump has drawn widespread criticism for his comments after violent clashes between groups of protesters during a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville last Saturday.
The president blamed the violence, which saw a woman get killed after a car plowed into a group of anti-racism protesters, not only on white nationalists but also on anti-racism activists who opposed them.
At a heated news conference in New York, Trump said on Tuesday that “there is blame on both sides”, and that there were “very fine people” on both sides.
Trump was elected president in November touting his experience in the business world but some of his actions and words have alienated many corporate leaders.
The Strategic and Policy Forum was headed by Blackstone Group CEO Stephen Schwarzman, who had been a close ally of Trump in the business world.
Schwarzman organized a call on Wednesday for member executives to voice concerns after Trump’s comments, and an overwhelming majority backed disbanding the council, sources told Reuters.
Schwarzman then called Trump to tell him about the decision to disband, and the president subsequently announced he was the one pulling the plug on the panels.
“Racism and murder are unequivocally reprehensible and not morally equivalent to anything else that happened in Charlottesville,” Morrison said.
JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon, a member of one of the panels, said he strongly disagreed with Trump’s reaction to the events in Charlottesville.
He said in a statement that “racism, intolerance and violence are always wrong” and “fanning divisiveness is not the answer.”
Dow Chemical CEO Andrew Liveris, who headed the manufacturing council, said he told the White House on Wednesday that “in the current environment it was no longer possible to conduct productive discussions.”
Trump said on Twitter, “Rather than putting pressure on the businesspeople of the Manufacturing Council & Strategy & Policy Forum, I am ending both.”
Along with the snubs from business leaders, Trump was rebuked by a string of Republicans including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Ohio Governor John Kasich, Senator Lindsey Graham and former U.S. presidents George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush.
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