IBM has advised an American president as part of a business advisory council for nearly a century. That ended Wednesday when two groups were disbanded.
IBM CEO Ginni Rometty told staffers in a memo she was following a longstanding tradition of the company working with US presidents dating back to Woodrow Wilson.
“We have always believed that dialogue is critical to progress; that is why I joined the President’s Forum earlier this year,” she said. “But this group can no longer serve the purpose for which it was formed. Earlier today I spoke with other members of the Forum and we agreed to disband the group.”
Rometty joined a parade of CEOs that earlier left their respective presidential councils after Trump drew criticism for not specifically calling out the neo-Nazis, white supremacists and Ku Klux Klan members who descended on Charlottesville, Virginia, over the weekend.
The two councils disbanding are the Presidential Committee on American Manufacturing and the President’s Strategic and Policy Forum. Intel CEO Brian Krzanich was the first tech leader to leave the manufacturing council. Former Uber CEO Travis Kalanick and Tesla and SpaceX founder Elon Musk both departed the strategic and policy forum earlier in the year.
The first to resign from the manufacturing council was Merck CEO Kenneth Frazier, who said in a statement, “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.” He was followed by Krzanich, Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank, and Scott Paul of the Alliance for American Manufacturing, as well as representatives from the AFL-CIO. Wednesday morning, Denise Morrison, CEO of the Campbell Soup Company, as well as Inge Thulin of 3M, also took their leave.
In the midst of the departures, Trump tweeted Tuesday, “I have many [CEOs] to take their place.” He also tweeted that he was disbanding the councils.
But The New York Times reported that before Trump’s tweet to end the councils, Blackstone Group CEO Stephen A. Schwarzman organized a call with members of the Strategic and Policy Forum, which initially included 16 executives, to decide whether to disband the group themselves.
“As our members have expressed individually over the past several days, intolerance, racism and violence have absolutely no place in this country and are an affront to core American values,” said members of the forum in a joint statement Wednesday, also noting the decision to disband.
While some, like GE Chairman Jeff Immelt had Tuesday press conference may have helped reverse that decision.earlier in the week, the president’s remarks during a
“The president’s statements yesterday were deeply troubling. There would be no GE without people of all races, religions, genders, and sexual orientations,” Immelt said in a statement explaining his resignation from the manufacturing council Wednesday morning.
Other CEOs likely expressed similar reasons for stepping down, said Eric Schiffer, the CEO of Reputation Management Consultants. He said any executives remaining on those councils would be perceived to be on board with Trump’s beliefs.
“They don’t want their personal and their company’s reputations exploding into bits,” he said. “They simply can’t afford to stand by a leader who is espousing hate and bigotry and condemning a large swarth of Americans. Presidents are expected to have a higher standard.”
The White House didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on whether there will be a formal process to disband the councils or whether there was concern about further resignations.
First published Aug. 15, 10:45 a.m. PT
Update, 11:22 a.m.: Adds context.
Update, 12:24 p.m.: Adds comments from GE Chairman Jeff Immelt and Strategic and Policy Forum members.
Update, 2:22 p.m.: Adds comments from IBM CEO Ginni Rometty and a reputation management expert.
iHate: CNET looks at how intolerance is taking over the internet.
Special Reports: CNET’s in-depth features in one place.