CEOs of at least 3 major companies quit WH board over Trump Charlottesville response

Last Updated Aug 15, 2017 2:03 AM EDT

More than two dozen executives from some of the country's most prominent corporations serve on President Trump's business and manufacturing advisory councils – and at first, Merck & Co. CEO Ken Frazier was the only one to resign in the wake of Mr. Trump's response to the weekend's deadly white supremacist protests in Charlottesville.

CBS News reached out to the more than 40 members of two outside advisory panels: the White House Manufacturing Council and the Strategic and Policy Forum, asking if they planned to stay on board. Many of them condemned the violence, while others obliquely criticized the president's reluctance to initially condemn the group of protestors that included neo-Nazis, KKK members and white nationalists. At least one company simply declined to comment.

Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank, who initially did not return CBS News' request for comment, announced after this story was published that he was stepping down from Mr. Trump's Manufacturing Council. "I love our country & company. I am stepping down from the council to focus on inspiring & uniting through power of sport," Plank tweeted Monday night. 

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, who serves with his deputy chief of staff Thea Lee on the manufacturing council, said they are "assessing our role" with the panel. "The AFL-CIO has unequivocally denounced the actions of bigoted domestic terrorists in Charlottesville and called on the president to do the same," Trumka said in a statement.

In a statement, Dow Chairman and CEO Andrew Liveris offered his thoughts and prayers to those "who lost oved ones and the people of Virginia." 

"In Dow there is no room for hatred, racism or bigotry. Dow will continue to support policies that support manufacturing and rebuild the workforce including contributing to the Manufacturing Jobs Initiative," he said.

A spokesman for Michael Dell, CEO of Dell Technologies, told CBS News "While we wouldn't comment on any member's personal decision, there's no change in Dell engaging with the Trump administration and governments around the world to share our perspective on policy issues that affect our company, customers and employees."

"Thanks for checking in. We don't have a comment," said a spokesman for Lockheed Martin CEO Marillyn Hewson.

A spokesman for Bill Brown, CEO of Harris Corporation said "I'm not able to get a response for you, sorry."  

Jeffrey Immelt, the Chairman of General Electric who headed President Barack Obama's business council, is staying put. A spokesman said "GE has no tolerance for hate, bigotry or racism and we strongly condemn the violent extremism in Charlottesville over the weekend….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 U.S., therefore, Jeff Immelt will remain on the Presidential Committee on American Manufacturing while he is the Chairman of GE."

A spokesperson for Pepsi CEO Indra Nooyi referred us to her August 12 tweet where she wrote "Heartbroken by the violence in #Charlottesville. Hate and intolerance are a betrayal of what we stand for as Americans."

The responses are a sampling of those received by CBS News. 

Earlier on Monday, Frazier resigned. "America's leaders must honor 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," he said in a statement. "As CEO of Merck and as a matter of personal conscience, I feel a responsibility to take a stand against intolerance and extremism."

Four minutes later, President Trump shot back, tweeting "Now that Ken Frazier of Merck Pharma has resigned from President's Manufacturing Council, he will have more time to LOWER RIPOFF DRUG PRICES!"  

Intel CEO Brian Krzanich appeared to criticize Mr. Trump on Twitter without calling him out by name, writing: "There should be no hesitation in condemning hate speech or white supremacy by name. #Intel asks all our countries leadership to do the same."

Later, Krzanich also resigned from the panel, writing that while he had urged leaders to condemn "white supremacists and their ilk," many in Washington "seem more concerned with attacking anyone who disagrees with them."

Blackstone Chairman and CEO Stephen Schwarzman, who heads Mr. Trump's Strategic and Policy Forum, said he was "deeply troubled by the tragic events in Charlottesville."

"Bigotry, hatred and extremism are an affront to core American values and have no place in this country," Schwarzman said. "As the president said today, I believe we need to find a path forward to heal the wounds left by this tragedy and address its underlying causes. Encouraging tolerance and understanding must be a core national imperative and I will work to further that goal."

Elon Musk, who served on both councils, resigned in June over the president's decision to pull out of the Paris climate accord, as did Disney CEO Bob Iger.

Mr. Trump was roundly criticized for his response to the protests, which at first blamed "both sides" for the violence. On Monday morning, however, Mr. Trump delivered more pointed remarks, saying that "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."