Business leaders quit Trump panel; he hits back hard

Washington, Aug 16: President Donald Trump ripped into business leaders who resigned from his White House jobs panel, the latest sign that corporate America's romance with Trump is faltering after his equivocal response to violence by white supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia. 

"They're not taking their job seriously as it pertains to this country," the president said yesterday at an impromptu news conference at Trump Tower in New York City. 

After his remarks, a fifth member of his manufacturing panel resigned: AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka, who said in a statement, "We cannot sit on a council for a president who tolerates bigotry and domestic terrorism." 

The president denied that his original statement about the violence in Virginia on Saturday — saying "many" sides were to blame, rather than hate groups — was the cause of the departures. 

"Some of the folks that will leave, they're leaving out of embarrassment because they make their products outside" the United States, he said as he seemed to double down on his earlier comments. 

Trump also assailed the CEOs who left on Twitter as "grandstanders" and said he had plenty of executives available to take their place. The president added that he believes economic growth in the US will heal its racial divide. 

But the parade of departing leaders from the informal panel seems closely linked to how the president responded to events that led to the death of a counter-protester that opposed the white supremacists. 

Among those who've left are the chief executives for Merck, Under Armour and Intel and the president of the Alliance for American Manufacturing. 

Alliance president Scott Paul, in a tweet, said simply, "I'm resigning from the Manufacturing Jobs Initiative because it's the right thing for me to do." Within minutes of the tweet yesterday, calls to Paul's phone were being sent to voicemail. 

Wal-Mart CEO Doug McMillon joined the chorus, saying in a note Monday to employees, "(We) too felt that he missed a critical opportunity to help bring our country together by unequivocally rejecting the appalling actions of white supremacists."

But McMillon, whose business has customers on all sides of the political spectrum, plans to stay on a separate Trump advisory panel and said that the president's follow-up remarks on Monday that named white supremacists were a step in the right direction.

PTI