Mark Bertolini, CEO of health insurance giant Aetna, has issued one of the sharpest rebukes yet to President Donald Trump’s handling of the recent white supremacist violence in Charlottesville, VA, telling employees that he is “ashamed of our President’s behavior and comments.” Trump doubled down on his position that “both sides” bear responsibility for the deadly attack on anti-protestors that left one woman dead and dozens injured in a combative press conference on Monday.
Bertolini made a lengthy statement to Aetna colleagues, according to a memo obtained by CNBC, on the violence against anti-Nazi protesters. After quoting Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Bertolini said that he agreed wholeheartedly with statements released by former Presidents George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush on Wednesday. “America must always reject racial bigotry, anti-Semitism, and hatred in all forms. As we pray for Charlottesville, we are reminded of the fundamental truths recorded by that city’s most prominent citizen in the Declaration of Independence: we are all created equal and endowed by our Creator with unalienable rights,” read the Bush statement on Charlottesville.
While many CEOs have publicly denounced Trump’s equivocation drawing parallels between white supremacists and those protesting them—and insisted that their organizations are driven by diversity—Bertolini went so far as to urge employees to reflect with families on friends on the best ways they can live up to America’s values.
A cascade of chief executives, beginning with Merck CEO Ken Frazier, ditched Trump’s manufacturing and strategic policy councils following president’s comments. After Tuesday’s press conference and amid growing public pressure to cut ties with Trump, so many CEOs were planning on leaving the councils that Trump preemptively announced that he would disband the groups altogether.