Donald Trump disbands business councils after Charlottesville backlash

Donald Trump disbands business councils after Charlottesville backlash

(Rick Rothacker and Katherine Peralta/Charlotte Observer) - President Donald Trump said Wednesday that he is abolishing two business advisory groups that had seen CEO departures in the wake of his comments about the riots in Charlotteville, Va.

"Rather than putting pressure on the businesspeople of the Manufacturing Council & Strategy & Policy Forum, I am ending both," Trump said in a tweet Wednesday. "Thank you all!"

The manufacturing council had begun losing members after Kenneth Frazier, the CEO of drug company Merck, resigned Monday. Others to leave included Kevin Plank, CEO of athletic apparel maker Under Armour, earning him praise from Steph Curry, the two-time NBA MVP and former Davidson College star who grew up in Charlotte and who has been critical of Trump.

John Ferriola, the CEO of Charlotte-based steel maker Nucor, had remained on the manufacturing council, although the company told the Observer it condemns the violence in Charlottesville, and rejects "the hate, bigotry, and racism expressed at the demonstration."

"As North America's largest steel producer, Nucor has engaged with several administrations to work on policies that help strengthen the U.S. manufacturing sector and provide opportunities for American workers," the company said in a statement Monday. "We believe a strong manufacturing sector is the backbone of a strong economy, and we will continue to serve as a member of the White House Manufacturing Jobs Initiative."

Trump on Tuesday 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.

"They're not taking their job seriously as it pertains to this country," the president said 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.

A day before disbanding the two business groups, Trump assailed the CEOs who left the manufacturing council 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 U.S. will heal its racial divide.

The Associated Press contributed