Merck CEO Kenneth Frazier is leaving President Trump’s American Manufacturing Council, saying, “I feel a responsibility to take a stand against intolerance and extremism.”
The resignation came after Trump was criticized for his response to the violence at white supremacist events in Charlottesville, Va., over the weekend. The president, famous for his ability to be direct and forceful, was faulted for condemning violence “on many sides.”
Within an hour of Merck announcing Frazier’s withdrawal, Trump retorted on Twitter, “Now that Ken Frazier of Merck Pharma has resigned … he will have more time to lower ripoff drug prices!”
In a statement on his resignation, Frazier said, “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.”
Frazier, who is African-American, said he was acting as both the CEO of Merck and “as a matter of personal conscience.”
The rift did not seem to harm Merck’s stock: The drug company’s shares rose by nearly a full percentage point in the first hour of trading, to nearly $63.
Members of his own party have called on Trump to condemn Saturday’s killing of a woman who had been protesting white supremacists as an act of domestic terrorism. The White House later stated that Trump was including “white supremacists, KKK Neo-Nazi and all extremist groups” in his remarks about the violence.
Frazier’s departure is the latest high-profile exit from a White House advisory council since Trump took office in January.
After Trump announced in June that the U.S. would be leaving the Paris climate accord, both Tesla CEO Elon Musk and Disney CEO Bob Iger left his business advisory council.
Months earlier, in February, Uber co-founder Travis Kalanick left the same panel during the fallout from Trump’s executive order, which at the time banned immigrants from seven majority-Muslim countries.
“The executive order is hurting many people in communities all across America,” Kalanick said at the time.