President Donald Trump lambasted Merck’s CEO Monday after the African-American pharmaceutical executive resigned from a White House advisory council, citing Trump’s controversial response to a violent white supremacist rally.
Merck chief executive Kenneth Frazier, alluding to Trump’s much-criticized response to a deadly weekend white supremacist protest, said he was exiting Trump’s American Manufacturing Council.
“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 men are created equal,” Frazier wrote 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.”
Trump, also on Twitter, responded about an hour later.
“Now that Ken Frazier of Merck Pharma has resigned from President’s Manufacturing Council, he will have more time to LOWER RIPOFF DRUG PRICES!” the US president said.
The White House came under fire after Trump refused to explicitly condemn white supremacists for their role in a violent protest Saturday in the southern state of Virginia.
A woman died and 19 people were injured in the city of Charlottesville when a car plowed into a crowd of people after a rally by Ku Klux Klan members and other white nationalists turned violent. Two state police officers died in a helicopter crash near the area.
In an appearance Saturday at his golf resort in Bedminster, New Jersey, Trump faulted “many sides” for the violence. He made no mention of the far-right militia groups involved in the Charlottesville melee, some of whom were wearing Trump hats or T-shirts.
White House officials have since made explicit they oppose bigotry and white supremacy. Several top officials, including Vice President Mike Pence and White House advisor Ivanka Trump, have spoken forcefully against hate groups.
But Trump, whose presidential campaign was championed by prominent white supremacists such as David Duke, has come under fire from many in his own party for not speaking out clearly on the matter.