Update: President Donald Trump has since tweeted that he will end both the Manufacturing Council and a separate Strategy & Policy Forum, amid several other CEO resignations and reports the Forum would disband of their own accord.
Rather than putting pressure on the businesspeople of the Manufacturing Council & Strategy & Policy Forum, I am ending both. Thank you all!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 16, 2017
- Johnson & Johnson CEO Alex Gorksy will continue to participate in President Donald Trump's manufacturing council, choosing to stay and "remain engaged," even as several other business leaders resigned from the group following the departure of Merck & Co. chief Kenneth Frazier.
- "If we aren't in the room advocating for global health as a top priority, if we aren't there standing up for our belief in diversity and inclusion, or if we fail to speak out when the situation demands it, then we have abdicated our credo responsibility," Gorsky said in a statement released Tuesday afternoon.
- On Monday, Frazier had announced he would leave the council as a "matter of personal conscience" in the wake of the White House's initial reluctance to specifically denounce the white supremacists and neo-Nazis who took part in violent protests in Charlottesville, VA over the weekend.
J&J's Gorsky broke ranks with his pharma colleague Frazier, deciding after some deliberation that J&J was better served by remaining on President Trump's manufacturing council than by leaving.
In his statement, Gorsky emphasized the need to remain engaged with the government while noting he respected the decision of other leaders on the council to leave.
Yet, it is unclear whether the council remains a channel of engagement and communication between the administration and industry. Neither the manufacturing council nor the strategy and policy forum have met since April, according to Bloomberg.
Soon after Frazier had announced his decision Monday, Trump took to Twitter to attack the CEO and Merck, calling out the company for high drug prices and producing its products outside the U.S.
Markets no longer seem to put as much weight in Trump's comments, however. Shares in Merck rose slightly Monday on low volume, while the Nasdaq Biotechnology Index gained about 1%. In the opening months of Trump's presidency, his comments on the industry led to sell-offs across the sector and sparked worries of new regulations.
Trump's criticism of Merck didn't stop several other CEOs and business leaders from leaving, either. Both Under Armour, Inc. head Kevin Plank and Intel Corp. CEO Brian Krzanich announced their departures Monday night, followed by the president of the Alliance for American Manufacturing (AAM) Scott Paul on Tuesday morning.
I love our country & company. I am stepping down from the council to focus on inspiring & uniting through power of sport. - CEO Kevin Plank pic.twitter.com/8YvndJMjj1— Under Armour (@UnderArmour) August 15, 2017
Plank and Paul did not specifically mention the protests in Charlottesville and Trump's response as reasons behind their decision, while Krzanich called on politicians to condemn the actions of white supremacist groups.
"I resigned because I want to make progress, while many in Washington seem more concerned with attacking anyone who disagrees with them," Krzanich's statement read. "We should honor — not attack — those who have stood up for equality and other cherished American values."
Trump criticized the exits as grandstanding, tweeting that he would replace every leader who leaves the council. He didn't, however, specifically call out Under Armour, Intel or AAM, as he had with Merck and Frazier.
For every CEO that drops out of the Manufacturing Council, I have many to take their place. Grandstanders should not have gone on. JOBS!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 15, 2017
Coupled with other earlier departures and CEO turnover at several companies, the wave of resignations has thinned the ranks of the council.