Merck CEO quits Trump advisory council over Charlottesville

Xavier Trudeau
Août 17, 2017

President Donald Trump has harsher words for Merck, a company resigning from a presidential advisory council over Trump's shameful reaction to Charlottesville, than he does for violent racists chanting Nazi slogans, one of whom killed an anti-racism protester.

"Now that Ken Frazier of Merck Pharma has resigned from President's Manufacturing Council, he will have more time to LOWER RIPOFF DRUG PRICES!" the USA president said.

In the statement, Kenneth C. Frazier, one of the few African American CEOs in the Fortune 500, said "I feel a responsibility to take a stand against intolerance and extremism" and touted the power of diversity.

Frazier, who in the past has donated to both Republicans and Democrats, sat beside Trump in February when the president had a roundtable discussion with pharmaceutical company executives.

The resignations came after Trump was criticized for his response to the violence at white supremacist events in Charlottesville, Va., over the weekend.

"America's leaders must honor our fundamental values by clearly rejecting expressions of hatred, bigotry and group supremacy, which run counter to the American ideal that all people are created equal", Frazier wrote.

The president followed up later in the day, tweeting that Merck "is a leader in higher & higher drug prices while at the same time taking jobs out of the U.S. Bring jobs back & LOWER PRICES!" Plank's pro-Trump commentary earlier this year sparked an uproar from shoppers and very public dissent among Under Armour's athletes, including his most-valued sneaker pitchman, basketball star Stephen Curry.

Frazier, in December, said his company has a " restrained" approach to price increases, calling aggressive price increases a foolhardy move by the industry. He did not address his involvement in his statement, but cited Trump's newest remarks about Charlottesville on Monday. Merck was one of only a handful of big pharmaceutical companies to disclose, alongside the list price, the net prices - or the amount Merck actually receives after factoring in rebates and other discounts that drugmakers payout.

Meanwhile, other executives stated their support for Frazier. After a auto plowed into a crowd, killing a counter-protester, Trump said there was violence "on many sides" without specifically denouncing white supremacists.

Paul Polman, the chief executive of Unilever, which owns the Dove and Axe brands, praised Frazier for standing up "for the moral values that made this country what it is".

Plank, Krzanich, Trumka and Liveris are also on the president's manufacturing council.

But that was too late, with Frazier announcing that that he was quitting the Trump advisory role in "stand against intolerance and extremism". At first, Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk defended his roles on Trump's manufacturing and economic advisory councils.

Schwartzman chairs the White House's Strategy and Policy Forum, a group of business executives who were tapped to advise Trump on the economy.

"Usually, certain niceties are observed to smooth over a rupture", said Galston, who served as a domestic policy aide in the Clinton administration. He said on Twitter it was "the right thing for me to do".

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