Trump scraps business panels after far-right comments spark CEO exodus

US President Trump ends advisory panels in low-key tweet after days of criticism over his response to 'Unite the Right' rally violence

FILE - In this Feb. 23, 2017, file photo, Merck CEO Kenneth Frazier, right, watches as President Donald Trump speaks during a meeting with manufacturing executives at the White House in Washington. Fallout from President Donald Trump's reaction to violent, racial clashes in Virginia over the weekend continued in the business community. Frazier resigned from a federal panel created years ago to advise the U.S. president. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)
Powered by automated translation

Donald Trump disbanded two high-profile business councils on Wednesday after a slew of high-profile resignations following the president’s controversial comments about deadly far-right protests in the U.S. state of Virginia.

Mr Trump made the announcement on Twitter after 3M Co’s Inge Thulin became the latest chief executive to leave Trump’s American Manufacturing Council after the president praised “many fine people” who attended the violent ‘Unite the Right’ protest in Charlottesville at the weekend.

“Rather than putting pressure on the businesspeople of the Manufacturing Council & Strategy & Policy Forum, I am ending both,” he wrote on Twitter.

The council was launched in January this year to promote U.S. manufacturing with some 28 of the country’s best-known business leaders and entrepreneurs, including Tesla Motor’s Elon Musk and the tech entrepreneur Michael Dell.

But senior executives began an exodus from the group on Monday following the president’s muted response to the protest and gathered pace after his suggestion that counter-protesters bore equal responsibility for the weekend’s violence that left one woman dead.

The president had initially responded vigorously after three chief executives of drugmaker Merck, Intel Corp, and sportswear firm Under Armour quit Monday.

Kenneth Frazier, an African-American and the CEO of Merck, said that he was taking a stand against intolerance and extremism.

The president shot back saying that he would now have more time to “LOWER RIPOFF DRUG PRICES!”

On Tuesday, he took aim at “grandstanders” and said that he had many CEOs to take the police of those quitting the council.

By Wednesday, he had changed his view and pulled the plug on the council.

Mr Musk had earlier quit in June over Mr Trump’s decision to quit the Paris climate change agreement.

The criticism by the CEOs was echoed by the British Prime Minister Theresa May and prominent members of his own party, deepening divisions within a Republican Party that controls both chambers of Congress and the White House.

Mrs May told reporters that it was “important for all those in positions of responsibility to condemn far-right views wherever we hear them".

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell issued a statement saying "messages of hate and bigotry" from white supremacists, the Ku Klux Klan and neo-Nazi groups should not be welcome anywhere in the United States.

"There are no good neo-Nazis, and those who espouse their views are not supporters of American ideals and freedoms,” he said in a statement that took aim at Mr Trump’s comments but did not mention him by name.

The U.S. stock market weakened on the news of the latest resignations.