OPINION | Marcela García

Why Donald Trump’s backstabbing could backfire

(FILES) This file photo taken on January 31, 2017 shows Kenneth Frazier, CEO of pharmaceutical company Merck, attending a meeting between US President Donald Trump and leaders of the pharmaceutical industry in the Roosevelt Room at the White House in Washington, DC. President Donald Trump lambasted Merck's CEO on August 14, 2017 after the African-American pharmaceutical executive resigned from a White House advisory council, citing Trump's controversial response to a violent white supremacist rally. Merck chief executive Kenneth Frazier, alluding to Trump's much-criticized response to a deadly weekend white supremacist protest, said he was exiting Trump's American Manufacturing Council. / AFP PHOTO / NICHOLAS KAMMNICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images
AFP/Getty Images
Kenneth Frazier, CEO of Merck.

Perhaps no one should be surprised that it took two days for President Trump to fully condemn the violence in Charlottesville, Va. But when the CEO of Merck & Co. resigned Monday morning from Trump’s advisory council for manufacturers because of the president’s failure to take a clear stand against white supremacy, it took no time at all for the leader of the free world to tweet out his petty contempt.

“Now that Ken Frazier of Merck Pharma has resigned from President’s Manufacturing Council, he will have more time to LOWER RIPOFF DRUG PRICES!” read Trump’s tweet.

Trump’s quick denunciation of a respected and principled business leader like Frazier shows that his penchant for backstabbing will likely always decimate any effort to build allegiances or unite the country.


So if you’re wondering who was more presidential on Monday, it was Frazier, by far. His high-minded statement read: “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. As CEO of Merck and as a matter of personal conscience, I feel a responsibility to take a stand against extremism.”

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And after Frazier, one of the most prominent African-American CEOs in the country, took the moral high ground, other business leaders took notice. Unilever CEO Paul Polman tweeted: ‘‘Thanks @Merck Ken Frazier for strong leadership to stand up for the moral values that made this country what it is.’’

On Monday, Tom Glocer, the former CEO of Thomson Reuters, praised Frazier and urged other business executives to step down from Trump’s advisory councils. “Ken has stood up for true American values. I call on all other members of Trump’s image-burnishing committees to do the same,” he wrote.

While Glocer’s view wasn’t shared by everyone — Jeff Immelt of GE said he’ll remain on the manufacturers council — it’s also not the first time that corporate leaders have drawn the line. Earlier in the summer, after Trump announced his intention to withdraw from the Paris climate accord, Disney CEO Robert Iger and Tesla CEO Elon Musk promptly resigned from White House advisory councils.

During the campaign, business leaders hoped that the brash New York real estate developer would ultimately temper his bluster, sheath his ego from time to time, and focus on more traditional Republican interests like deregulation and tax reform. But Trump’s missing moral compass and narcissistic refusal to show a modicum of loyalty to his allies make that vision seem more and more like fiction.

Marcela García is a Globe editorial writer and can be reached at marcela.garcia@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @marcela_elisa