Merck CEO quits Trump manufacturing council after Charlottesville response

The chairman and CEO of American pharmaceutical giant Merck announced Monday that he was resigning from President Donald Trump’s American Manufacturing Council “as a matter of personal conscience” in the wake of a deadly car attack on protesters in Virginia over the weekend.

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Kenneth C. Frazier, who is African American, announced his decision Monday morning, writing in a statement that he felt “a responsibility to take a stand against intolerance and extremism.”

The decision came after critics questioned Trump’s decision not to call out white supremacists in a statement condemning the violence that erupted Saturday. Police said Heather Heyer, 32, died after she was struck by a vehicle when a man, identified by police as 20-year-old James Alex Fields Jr., slammed a car into protesters and two other vehicles.

“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,” Frazier wrote.

Trump responded to the news on Twitter, writing that Frazier “will have more time to lower ripoff drug prices.”

Drugmakers have come under closer scrutiny because of rising drug prices, though Merck has not been one of the companies targeted by lawmakers or watchdog groups.

Trump told reporters in Bedminster, New Jersey, on Saturday that he condemned “in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides.

Fields faces charges including second-degree murder.

Frazier is not the first executive to resign from advisory councils serving Trump.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk resigned from the manufacturing council in June, and two other advisory groups to the president, after the U.S. withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement. Walt Disney Co. Chairman and CEO Bob Iger resigned from a White House advisory council for the same reason.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.