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3 Prominent CEOs Distance Themselves From President Trump


There are fresh calls this morning for President Trump to fire his chief strategist, Steve Bannon. Leaders of four House caucuses wrote a letter to Trump demanding he dismissed Bannon, who ran the website Breitbart and called it a platform for the alt-right. Bannon is under scrutiny because of President Trump's vague initial statement blaming many sides for the violence in Charlottesville.

Trump was more explicit yesterday, calling out white supremacists as repugnant. But that didn't satisfy everyone, including prominent business leaders. Three CEOs resigned yesterday from President Trump's manufacturing council. NPR's Scott Horsley is with us now. And Scott, can you remind us real quickly? Who are these CEOs and how did they explain their departure?

SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: Well, good morning, Ailsa. It began yesterday with Kenneth Frazier, the head of the Merck pharmaceutical company, who stepped down. Frazier, who is African-American, called it a matter of personal conscience. He said it was important to take a stand against intolerance and extremism. Within an hour, the president had counterpunched, as he's prone to do, saying that now that Frazier was off the manufacturing council, Merck would have more time to cut what the president called rip-off drug prices.

Trump then gave his more explicit statement condemning neo-Nazis and Klansmen alike. But we then had two more defections, the heads of Under Armour and Intel. And we've seen this before, Ailsa. In the past, the leaders of Disney and Tesla have stepped down to protest the president's withdrawal from the Paris climate accord. And even Travis Kalanick of Uber left to protest immigration policy before he ran into his own problems.

CHANG: So working with business, that's such a huge part of President Trump's image. Do you think there's been any kind of damage done because of all that's been happening in the last 24 hours?

HORSLEY: Well, I think what we're really seeing is that people feel freer to criticize this president - Republican lawmakers and business people, too. The latest Gallup poll showed Trump's approval rating at just 34 percent. And it's a lot easier to go after a president with those kind of numbers than someone who's flying high right after an election.

CHANG: Indeed. That's NPR's Scott Horsley. Thanks very much.

HORSLEY: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.