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Merck CEO drops out of Trump council in protest, Trump blasts him for high drug prices

Ethan Wolff-Mann
Senior Writer

Merck CEO and chair Kenneth C. Frazier resigned from President Donald Trump’s American Manufacturing Council following the President’s delayed condemnation of the neo-Nazi and white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.

This weekend’s rally turned deadly when a Nazi sympathizer drove a car into a crowd, killing a woman. In the following police response, a police helicopter crashed, killing two officers.

“I am resigning from the President’s American Manufacturing Council,” Frazier wrote in a statement released by Merck. “Our country’s strength stems from its diversity and the contributions made by men and women of different faiths, races, sexual orientations and political beliefs.”

Here is a list of who is currently on the manufacturing council.

In response 54 minutes later, Trump tweeted: “Now that Ken Frazier of Merck Pharma has resigned from President’s Manufacturing Council, he will have more time to LOWER RIPOFF DRUG PRICES!”

Following the rally, Republicans and Democrats alike largely condemned the neo-Nazi rallies that included prominent figures such as white nationalist Richard Spencer and former “imperial wizard” of the Ku Klux Klan David Duke.

Merck CEO Kenneth Frazier and U.S. President Donald Trump meet along with representatives from PhRMA, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America in the White House on January 31, 2017. (Photo by Ron Sachs/Getty Images)

Trump, however, blamed “many sides,” a line that was condemned itself across the political spectrum for making an equivalency between neo-Nazis and anti-fascist counter-protesters. Some analysts explained this hesitation by noting that these far-right hate groups are part of Trump’s base.

“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,” wrote Frazier. “As CEO of Merck and as a matter of personal conscience, I feel a responsibility to take a stand against intolerance and extremism.”

Frazier’s departure is one of the first responses by the business community to Trump’s latest misstep, but previous members of various White House councils have left after a Trump move. Following the withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement, Disney’s Bob Iger and Tesla’s Elon Musk resigned. Former Uber CEO Travis Kalanick resigned from the White House business advisory council after the administration implemented its controversial travel ban.