after Charlottesville

By Lucinda Shen
September 12, 2017

Some consumers may have applauded the CEOs of Under Armour and Campbell Soup for leaving President Donald Trump’s business councils after he failed to immediately condemn neo-Nazis in wake of the violence in Charlottesville, but U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin thinks they’re abandoning their responsibilities.

“The CEOs have a responsibility to their companies,” Mnuchin said at the CNBC Delivering Alpha Conference Tuesday. “They also have a responsibility to advise the government.”

After the President reasserted that the violence in Charlottesville mid-August between white supremacists and counter-protesters could be attributed to both sides, many CEOs in Trump’s Manufacturing Council as well as the Strategy and Policy Forum resigned, protesting that the President did not condemn the Alt-Right. As more and more CEOs left, the groups later decided to disband.

“I am ending both. Thank you all!” Trump tweeted at the time. Reports, however, suggest that the CEOs came to the decision before Trump made the announcement.

While a largely ceremonial role, a position in the two economic councils do give the CEOs a stronger hand in potentially shaping a President’s policy agenda. But as Trump made further unpopular decisions that clashed with their own corporate images, CEOs felt the need to publicly distance themselves to signal that they supported climate change policies and condemned hate and intolerance.

“I personally think it was a mistake that the councils were disbanded,” Mnuchin said Tuesday.

Notably, while Trump economic adviser Gary Cohn, who works closely with Mnuchin on tax reform policies, publicly said he disagreed with Trump’s Charlottesville views and even considered resigning, Mnuchin has publicly aligned himself strongly with the president.

“I feel compelled to let you know that the President in no way, shape or form believes that neo-Nazi and other hate groups who endorse violence are equivalent to groups that demonstrate in peaceful and lawful ways,” the New York Times reported Mnuchin saying in a statement at the time.

Meanwhile, when asked about the stock markets which opened at yet another high Tuesday, Mnuchin said he took it as “a big vote of confidence” in the administration’s ability to enact tax reforms.

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