President Donald Trump announced Wednesday that he would disband two manufacturing advisory panels amid the firestorm surrounding his comments about white nationalist violence in Virginia over the weekend.
The decision came after numerous members of the American Manufacturing Council resigned early this week and pressure mounted on remaining members.
“Rather than putting pressure on the businesspeople of the Manufacturing Council & Strategy & Policy Forum, I am ending both,” Trump wrote on Twitter.
Merck CEO Kenneth Frazier, Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank and Intel CEO Brian Krzanich departed the manufacturing council on Monday, two days after Trump responded to the violent outbreak in Charlottesville by decrying violence “on many sides” — which many saw as equating white supremacist and neo-Nazi elements with the counter-protesters that gathered to oppose them.
Trump on Monday read a statement condemning racist violence as "repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans," but Scott Paul, the president of the American Alliance for Manufacturing, nonetheless resigned from the council Tuesday and called the move "the right thing for me to do."
AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka and another union official, Thea Lee, resigned later in the day after Trump once again equated the nationalist protests with counter-protesters.
In a bizarre press conference, Trump said that not all of the protesters in Charlottesville "were white supremacists by any stretch" and said the "alt-left" counter-protesters were "very, very violent." He also appeared to equate Confederate leaders with Revolution-era figures who owned slaves and noted that the counter-protesters charged "without a permit."
The outburst prompted condemnation from both sides of the political aisle and ratcheted up the calls on remaining executives to resign from the panel. Executives from 3M and Campbell Soup Co. quit on Wednesday, and Trump announced the end of both councils shortly thereafter.
Wednesday was also the day of the memorial service for Heather Heyer, a 32-year-old Charlottesville paralegal who was killed when a rally attendee rammed his car into a crowd of counter-protesters.