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Donald Trump denounces racism, but too late for some US CEOs

After dragging his feet, US President Donald Trump bowed to mounting pressure and denounced neo-Nazis, the Ku Klux Klan and white supremacists over the Charlottesville clashes.

world Updated: Aug 15, 2017 19:02 IST
Yashwant Raj
Yashwant Raj
Hindustan Times, Washington
US President Donald Trump,Racism in the US,white supremacists
US President Donald Trump departs to travel to New York from the White House in Washington on August 14, 2017. (Reuters)

Two CEOs of major American companies have quit an advisory council over President Donald Trump’s response to the Charlottesville clashes, even after he bowed to mounting pressure and denounced neo-Nazis, the Ku Klux Klan, white supremacists and all hate groups.

The CEO of sportswear firm Under Armour, Kevin Plank, resigned on Monday evening and Intel’s Brian Krzanich a few hours later, joining Kenneth Frazier, the African American CEO of Merck Pharma, who was the first to quit the American Manufacturing Council earlier in the day, saying hate groups must be rejected “clearly”.

Trump did issue a clearer denunciation than his earlier attempts a few hours later: “Racism is evil.And those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs, including the KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and other hate groups that are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans.”

He added: “Anyone who acted criminally in this weekend’s racist violence, you will be held fully accountable. Justice will be delivered.”

But that was clearly not enough for the CEOs. “Under Armour engages in innovation and sports, not politics,” Plank said in a statement.

Krzanich too said in a statement, “I resigned to call attention to the serious harm our divided political climate is causing to critical issues, including the serious need to address the decline of American manufacturing.”

There were statements from other business leaders as well — including Stephen A Schwarzman, the chief executive of the private equity firm, the Blackstone Group, and a close adviser of Trump — but no one else had gone as far as the three CEOs who quit the administration’s advisory panels.

Trump had resisted calls for him to name and criticise the hate groups for two days after the clashes that claimed the lives of three people, including a 32-year old woman killed by a car that plowed through protestors, with a 20-year-old white supremacist allegedly at the wheel.

Critics argued it was important for Trump to say those words and denounce the hate groups because many of their members had supported him and voted for him, and felt emboldened by his election to assert themselves more belligerently than rarely before, never in recent years.

In his first response, a tweet, Trump vaguely condemned violence and called for peace and unity. In his second, brief remarks, he came out blaming both sides — “many sides”, he had said — and not the hate groups that had been widely blamed for starting the clashes.

Critics and allies, including leading Republican lawmakers, publicly called on him to issue a more unequivocal denunciation. Ivanka Trump, his daughter and senior adviser, went ahead and named the hate groups in a tweet on Sunday: “There should be no place in society for racism, white supremacy and neo-Nazis.”

Trump held out for another day amid more criticism, this time from the business community. Frazier resigned from a federal panel of business advisers, saying, “America's leaders must honour 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.”

Trump hit back within an hour, mocking Frazier in a tweet that said since he had resigned, he should find all the time he needs to bring back the prices of drugs — in all caps, showing how angry he might have been.

But he did give in finally, and issued a firm and clear denunciation.

First Published: Aug 15, 2017 18:23 IST