Merck CEO Kenneth Frazier resigned Monday from the president’s American Manufacturing Council in protest of President Donald Trump’s response to white supremacist violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, and Trump immediately blasted the drug executive on Twitter.
“As CEO of Merck and as a matter of personal conscience, I feel a responsibility to take a stand against intolerance and extremism,” Frazier, the only African American CEO of a major pharmaceutical company, wrote in a tweet.
Shortly afterward, Trump responded by saying that in light of the resignation, Frazier will have more time to “LOWER RIPOFF DRUG PRICES!”
A rally by hundreds of white nationalists in Virginia took a deadly turn on Saturday when a car plowed into a group of counter-protesters and killed at least one person. A white supremacist has been charged.
At a news conference after the death, Trump denounced what he called an “egregious display of hatred and bigotry” displayed by antagonists “on many sides.” That drew an immediate backlash from people who felt Trump had not taken a strong enough stance against bigotry and extremism.
Frazier isn’t the first CEO to step down from a presidential advisory council to protest Trump’s actions. Former Uber CEO Travis Kalanick left in February over the Trump administration’s immigration policies.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk and Walt Disney CEO Robert Iger later departed the President’s Strategic and Policy Forum in June, after Trump said he would withdraw from the Paris climate accord. Musk also left the manufacturing council.
In addition, several executives are no longer part of the council since they are no longer CEOs. They include: Mark Fields, of Ford; Klaus Kleinfeld, of Arconic; and Mario Longhi, of U.S. Steel.
Earlier this summer, Trump talked about taking presidential action on drug pricing to address the rising costs of prescription drugs in recent years.
Drugmakers are “getting away with murder,” Trump said during a January news conference.