Over the past week, President Donald Trump has tweeted an obscenity, openly wondered whether a political opponent should be arrested, and made arguably threatening comments about a whistleblower in a closed-door meeting. The inflammatory remarks have come in the early days of an impeachment inquiry that poses a new threat to the Trump presidency.
In a newly released interview, taped last month, Ariel Investments Co-CEO Mellody Hobson said Trump’s combative rhetoric is having an “enormous” impact on the U.S. Her answer came in response to a question from Yahoo Finance Editor-in-Chief Andy Serwer about the impact of Trump’s “incivility.”
“I respect the office of president no matter what,” adds Hobson, a longtime Democratic donor. “But I'm disappointed in how our current president articulates his points of view. I think it is hurting people, certainly, with the targeted attacks, but I also think it is hurting civility, and it's hard to get it back.”
Hobson expressed concern about the effect of Trump’s rhetoric not only on the U.S. but on the country’s reputation abroad.
“I get to travel around the world, and the questions are upsetting, about what is going on in America, and what are we tolerating?” she says. “It's very, very disappointing.”
Last Tuesday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced a formal impeachment inquiry after reports that on a July phone call Trump had pressured Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate Hunter Biden, the son of Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden. Less than a week later, on Monday, Trump publicly pondered whether House Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff should be arrested for treason. A day later, Trump referred to Democratic Congressional efforts by tweeting an obscenity in all-capital letters.
Those remarks followed a statement from Trump, made last Thursday at a closed-door event with the U.S. mission to the United Nations, that the administration whistleblower at the center of the impeachment inquiry is “close to a spy.” He then added, in video leaked to the Washington Post and other outlets: “You know what we used to do in the old days when we were smart? Right? With spies and treason, right? We used to handle them a little differently than we do now.”
Hobson is the co-CEO of Ariel Investments, a firm with assets totaling $12.9 billion, where she worked for nearly the past three decades. She serves on the board of directors for Starbucks and JPMorgan Chase. Her Ted Talk on challenging racial inequality, given in 2014, has been viewed more than 3.7 million times.
She made the comments during a conversation that aired in an episode of Yahoo Finance’s “Influencers with Andy Serwer,” a weekly interview series with leaders in business, politics, and entertainment.
In addition to her remarks about Trump, Hobson commented on the 2020 Democratic presidential race, saying she would support whichever candidate wins the primary.
“I feel like whoever gets the nomination, I'm all in,” she says.
Hobson, a friend of Barack and Michelle Obama since their time living in Chicago before the couple moved to the White House, remains a staunch ally of the last Democratic president and first lady.
“I am a big fan of both of theirs,” she says.
Andy Serwer is editor-in-chief of Yahoo Finance. Follow him on Twitter: @serwer.