Kenneth Frazier, CEO of pharmaceutical company Merck resigns from US President Donald Trump council over Charlottesville

August 14, 2017 10:30 pm

This file photo taken on January 31, 2017 shows Kenneth Frazier, CEO of pharmaceutical company Merck, attending a meeting between President Donald Trump and leaders of the pharmaceutical industry in the Roosevelt Room at the White House in Washington, DC. (Photo by AFP)

US President Donald Trump faced renewed pressure on Monday to respond more forcefully to a violent white-nationalist rally in Virginia, after drawing a storm of criticism when he avoided explicit condemnation of far-right groups.
In a strong rebuke to the president, the chief executive of one of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies resigned from a business panel led by Trump. Merck & Co Inc CEO Kenneth Frazier cited a need for leadership countering bigotry.
The Republican president has been assailed by Republicans and Democrats alike over his handling of Saturday’s violence in , in which a woman was killed when a man drove his car into a group of counter-protesters.
Trump was meeting top law enforcement officials at the White House on Monday to discuss the issue. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said he expected the president would address the incident again later in the day.
Critics said Trump waited too long to address the violence, and slammed him for stating when he did that “many sides” were involved, rather than explicitly condemning white-supremacist marchers widely seen as sparking the melee.
A 20-year-old man said to have harbored Nazi sympathies as a teenager was facing charges he plowed his car into protesters opposing the white nationalists, killing Heather Heyer and injuring 19 people. The accused, James Alex Fields, was denied bail at an initial court hearing on Monday.
Merck’s Frazier, who is black, did not name Trump or criticize him directly in a statement posted on the drug company’s Twitter account, but the rebuke was implicit.
“America’s leaders must honor our fundamental values by clearly rejecting expressions of hatred, bigotry and group supremacy,” said Frazier.
Trump immediately hit back, but made no reference to Frazier’s comments on values, instead revisiting a longstanding gripe about expensive medicines. Now he had left the panel, Frazier would have more time to focus on lowering “ripoff” drug prices, Trump said in a Twitter post.
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People gather downtown protest the alt-right movement and to mourn the victims of yesterdays rally in Charlottesville, Virginia on August 13, 2017 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by AFP)

The outrage over Trump’s reaction to the Charlottesville violence added to a litany of problems for the president.
Opponents have attacked him for his explosive rhetoric toward North Korea and he is publicly fuming with fellow Republicans in Congress over their failure to notch up any major legislative wins during his first six months in office.
In his comments on Saturday, Trump denounced what he called “this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides.” Under pressure to take an unequivocal stand against right-wing extremists who occupy a loyal segment of Trump’s political base, the administration sought to sharpen its message.
The White House said in a statement on Sunday Trump was condemning “all forms of violence, bigotry and hatred, and of course that includes white supremacists, KKK (Ku Klux Klan), neo-Nazi, and all extremist groups.” Vice President Mike Pence also denounced such groups on Sunday.
People gather for a vigil in response to the death of a counter-demonstrator at the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, outside the White House in Washington, US  August 13, 2017.
Authorities said Heyer, 32, was killed when Fields’ car slammed into a crowd of anti-racism activists confronting neo-Nazis and KKK sympathizers, capping a day of bloody street brawls between the two sides in the Virginia college town.
Jeff Sessions tried to defend the president in a series of television interviews on Monday in which he also stressed the administration was taking a robust approach to investigations. The attack on counter-protesters “does meet the definition of domestic terrorism,” Sessions said.
‘Nazis go home’

A vigil is held in downtown Philadelphia on August 13, 2017 in support of the victims of violence at the ‘Unite the Right’ rally In Charlottesville, Virginia. (Photo by AFP)

Fields appeared in Charlottesville General District Court by video link from Albemarle-Charlottesville Regional Jail. He was being held there on a second-degree murder charge, three counts of malicious wounding and a single count of leaving the scene of a fatal accident. The next court date was set for Aug. 25.
The US Justice Department was pressing its own federal investigation of the incident as a hate crime.
A small group of people clashed outside the courthouse after the hearing, with two men blaming those who protested against the white nationalist rally with sparking Saturday’s violence.
“The police department did not do anything to protect us,” Matthew Heimbach, one of the men, said. “Radical leftists are the ones that brought the violence. They are the ones that tried to kill us.”
A women yelled “Nazis go home!” over and over at Heimbach until police ushered him away. The Southern Poverty Law Center says Heimbach is considered to be the face of a new generation of white nationalists.
The weekend disturbances began when white nationalists converged to protest against plans to remove a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee, the commander of rebel forces during the US  Civil War.
The violence prompted vigils and protests from Miami to Seattle on Sunday, including some targeting other Confederate statues. Such monuments have periodically been flashpoints in the , viewed by many Americans as symbols of racism because of the Confederate defense of slavery in the Civil War.
In Atlanta, protesters spray-painted a statue of a Confederate soldier, and in Seattle, three people were arrested in a confrontation between protesters supporting Trump and counter-protesters, local media reported.
The web hosting company GoDaddy Inc said on Sunday it had given the neo-Nazi white supremacist website the Daily Stormer 24 hours to move its domain to another provider after the site posted an article denigrating Heyer. The Daily Stormer is associated with the alt-right movement.
Derek Weimer, a history teacher at Fields’ high school in Kentucky, told Cincinnati television station WCPO-TV he recalled Fields harboring “some very radical views on race” as a student and was “very infatuated with the Nazis, with Adolf Hitler.”
Fields reported for basic military training in August 2015 but was “released from active duty due to a failure to meet training standards in December of 2015,” the Army said.
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