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Daily News Provided by: utahautorestoration.com
Under Armour (UAA) CEO Kevin Plank became the latest chief executive to quit President Trump's council of U.S. business leaders, as membership on the panel has become enmeshed in the country's volatile politics after violent riots in Virginia over the weekend.
The Monday evening move came hours after Merck (MRK) CEO Kenneth Frazier also stepped down from the business council. Plank's departure is a sharp rebuke to Trump, after the Under Armor executive earlier this year came under fire for commenting that the president was a "real asset" for the country.
"Under Armour engages in innovation and sport, not politics," Plank said in a tweeted statement that referenced the company's aim to promote diversity and inclusion. Merck's Frazier said he quit "as a matter of personal conscience, I feel a responsibility to take a stand against intolerance and extremism."
Trump responded to Frazier with a couple jabs, tweeting late Monday that "@Merck Pharma is a leader in higher & higher drug prices while at the same time taking jobs out of the U.S."
For the moment, other big-name chief executives are sticking with Trump. Over the weekend, one woman was killed and many others were injured after a man in a car rammed a group of counter-demonstrators during a daylong melee in Charlottesville, Virginia. White supremacists and other hate groups had massed in the city to protest the removal of a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee.
Trump was widely criticized by U.S. lawmakers and other officials for not denouncing white supremacists in a statement on Saturday in which he said "many sides" were at fault for the violence. The president has repeatedly drawn fire for his relations with white nationalist groups and his handling of issues related to minorities.
Speaking from the White House on Monday, Trump denounced white supremacists and declared racism "evil."
"To anyone who acted criminally in this weekend's racist violence, you will be held accountable," Trump said, calling for unity in the wake of the tragedy.
The move by Frazier and Plank shows how corporate leaders are walking a narrow line in working with the Trump administration to help shape policy around taxes, immigration and other issues, while trying not to alienate customers in an increasingly tense political environment.
The council has included top executives from Boeing (BA), Dow Chemical (DOW) and Johnson & Johnson (JNJ). A handful of CEOs have stepped down from two White House business groups, which have met only sporadically, over political controversies.
The president hasn't been shy about calling out businesses for perceived missteps. After his 2016 election victory Trump took aim at defense contractors Boeing and Lockheed Martin (LMT) for what he called the high cost of some aircraft, and muscled United Technologies (UTX) unit Carrier into keeping a plant in Indiana after the company said it would be closed and production shifted to Mexico.