Business

Merck chief Ken Frazier resigns from Trump council

Donald Trump and Ken Frazier during a previous White House meeting Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Donald Trump and Ken Frazier during a previous White House meeting

The head of drugs giant Merck, Ken Frazier, has resigned from President Trump's American Manufacturing Council following Charlottesville.

A woman was killed on Saturday when a car rammed into a crowd protesting against a white supremacist rally.

Following the death, Mr Trump was criticised for not specifically denouncing the far right.

Mr Frazier said: "I feel a responsibility to take a stand against intolerance and extremism."

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

In response, Mr Trump tweeted that Mr Frazier would now have "more time to lower rip off drug prices".

In January, Mr Trump called on pharmaceutical companies to cut "astronomical" drug prices.

In a meeting at the Oval Office, the president met Mr Frazier and other executives from companies such as Johnson & Johnson and Eli Lilly, and told them prices for drugs must come down.

He said if they brought production back to the US, the administration would lower regulations and speed up approval for new medicines.


Analysis: Anthony Zurcher, Senior North America Reporter

One of only a handful of black heads of Fortune 500 companies resigns from a White House advisory board in protest at Donald Trump's tepid response to the Charlottesville attacks, and the president cannot resist kicking the man on the way out of the door.

While it is a move that is in keeping with Mr Trump's reputation as someone who responds aggressively to any perceived slight, his tweet is politically risky.

Pressure will mount on other corporate leaders to follow suit, lest they be viewed as being soft on racism.

Leaders such as Thea Lee of the AFL-CIO, Jamie Dimon of JPMorgan Chase, Indra Nooyi of PepsiCo and Mary Barra of General Motors are sure to feel the heat from members and shareholders.

The White House has been scrambling since Saturday night to control the damage caused by Mr Trump's "both sides" comment, when ascribing blame for the Charlottesville violence.

The president has faced sharp criticism from the left and the right, as conservative members of Congress show newfound willingness to distance themselves from Mr Trump on this matter.

Once again, a Trump tweet complicates the press team's job.

While they are busy bailing out the ship, the president is poking more holes in the hull.


The White House has rejected criticism of President Trump's response to the violence at the weekend.

Demonstrations and vigils have been held in cities across the United States in support of Charlottesville.

'Divided'

The huge US conglomerate General Electric (GE) strongly condemned the events at Charlottesville, and said it was a "proudly inclusive" company.

But it said its chairman, Jeff Immelt, would stay on the Presidential Committee on American Manufacturing.

"With more than 100,000 employees in the United States, it is important for GE to participate in the discussion on how to drive growth and productivity in the US," it said.

Other company heads have previously stepped down from presidential advisory councils in protest at Mr Trump's policies.

Former Uber chief executive Travis Kalanick left the Business Advisory Council in February over the Trump administration's immigration policies.

Tesla's chief executive Elon Musk and Walt Disney's chief executive Robert Iger left the President's Strategic and Policy Forum in June, after Mr Trump said he would withdraw from the Paris climate accord.

Mr Musk also left the manufacturing council.

Lloyd Blankfein, the chief executive and chairman of Goldman Sachs, tweeted a quote from President Lincoln in response to Charlottesville.

He said: "Lincoln: 'A house divided against itself cannot stand'. Isolate those who try to separate us. No equivalence w/ those who bring us together."

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