WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump on Tuesday criticized as “grandstanders” the executives who quit his manufacturing council in protest of his response to the Charlottesville, Virginia, clashes, while accusing the Walmart chief who joined in the rebuke of “making a political statement.”
Then, Tuesday afternoon, the fifth and sixth members of the advisory panel resigned, citing Trump’s latest comments on the Charlottesville violence.
Earlier Tuesday, Scott Paul, president of the Alliance for American Manufacturing, had became the fourth member to resign from the advisory panel because Trump initially did not directly condemn white supremacists.
Paul posted that leaving was “the right thing to do” just moments after Trump tweeted that those who had quit were just “grandstanders” who could be easily replaced.
Hours later, during a news conference, Trump returned to his original premise that “there’s blame on both sides,” referencing the white nationalists and counterprotesters who brawled. Those comments apparently prompted two AFL-CIO members to announce they, too, were breaking with the council.
Union president Richard Trumka, speaking for himself and colleague Thea Lee, said, “From hollow councils to bad policy and embracing bigotry, the actions of this administration have consistently failed working people.”
Even before those departures, the president had barbs for those who had left, saying:
“They’re leaving out of embarrassment because they make their products outside,” referring to their manufacturing. “And I’ve been lecturing them . . . about you have to bring it back to this country.”
In addition to Paul, the three who earlier left the Strategic and Policy Forum were Brian Krzanich of computer chip manufacturer Intel, Kevin Plank of sports apparel maker Under Armour and Kenneth Frazier of pharmaceutical company Merck.
Meanwhile, Walmart chief executive Doug McMillon wrote to employees late Monday, “We too felt that he missed a critical opportunity to help bring our country together by unequivocally rejecting the appalling actions of white supremacists.”
Asked about the statement Tuesday, Trump said he believed he was uniting the country through job creation and stock market highs, “so the head of Walmart, who I know is a very nice guy, was making a political statement.”
On Saturday, the president said he rejected hatred, bigotry and violence “on many sides” in Charlottesville, leading Democrats and Republicans to call for him to speak more forcefully against white supremacy
On Monday, he declared that “racism is evil” and denounced white supremacists, the KKK and neo-Nazis explicitly.
On Tuesday, Trump said he delayed naming racist hate groups because he needed to “see the facts,” taking a shot at reporters, whom he accused of not doing the same.
Earlier Tuesday, Trump retweeted — and then deleted — a cartoon depicting a train running over a person with the CNN logo superimposed on the face.
He also retweeted, apparently mistakenly, a message from one of his critics saying “he’s a fascist” before deleting it.
Trump seemed to be attempting to highlight a “Fox & Friends” story about him potentially pardoning former Sheriff Joe Arpaio in a criminal contempt of court case involving immigration patrols.