Merck CEO Frazier draws Trump's ire for taking stand on violence in Charlottesville

Merck & Co. CEO Ken Frazier has resigned from President Donald Trump’s manufacturing council, issuing an indirect criticism of the president for not taking a stronger stand about the actions of white supremacists in which an opposing protester was killed over the weekend.

Frazier's statement, in which he said America’s leaders need to clearly reject “expressions of hatred, bigotry and group supremacy,” drew a quick and heated Twitter response from Trump.

Using Trump’s preferred discussion platform, Frazier on Twitter today announced his resignation under protest.

A spokeswoman in an email today said Merck & Co. would have nothing further to say beyond Frazier’s statement.  

Frazier’s decision came after violence broke out this weekend in Charlottesville, Virginia, between white nationalists protesting the city’s removal of a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee and counter-protesters. In a deadly incident, a car reportedly purposely ran into a crowd of counter-protesters, killing one. The driver, an Ohio man, faces a charge of second-degree murder, CNN reports.  

Hours after the violence broke out, the president in a news conference condemned what he termed the "egregious display of hatred and bigotry ... on many sides,” a statement that quickly drew criticism for not being strong enough.

But today, as criticism built over his tepid response and his retort to Frazier, Trump toughened his response. In a press conference in which he first talked about the economy, he then pivoted with an update on the federal response to the weekend's events. 

“We must unite together in condemnation of hatred, bigotry and violence. Racism is evil. And those who cause violence in its name are criminal and thugs, including the KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists and other hate groups that are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans,” he said in the broadcast.  

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Frazier is not the first pharma CEO to speak out against some of Trump’s policies. In January, Allergan CEO Brent Saunders opposed the administration’s travel ban on seven mostly Muslim countries. On Twitter, he wrote: “Oppose any policy that puts limitations on our ability to attract the best & diverse talent.”

Other execs have resigned from the manufacturing council and other government committees. Former Uber CEO Travis Kalanick quit the manufacturing council in February over the Trump administration's immigration policies, CNBC says. Tesla CEO Elon Musk and Walt Disney CEO Robert Iger quit the president's strategic and policy forum in June, after the president announced the U.S. would pull out of the Paris climate accord. Musk also left the manufacturing council.

RELATED: Trump's pharma CEO confab: Get prices 'way down,' get 'better innovation' and get back to U.S.

Frazier was among the pharma executives who met with the president shortly after he was sworn in. At that meeting, the president told those attending that drugmakers needed to lower prices, deliver "better" innovation and "move your companies back" to the U.S.