In a statement Monday posted on Twitter, Merck chief executive (CEO) Kenneth Frazier said he was stepping down "as a matter of personal conscience" after the Charlottesville violence, adding that he was feeling "a responsibility to take a stand against intolerance and extremism."
The move came after Donald Trump was under increasing pressure to explicitly condemn the racially-tinged rally of white supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia, over the weekend.
"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 men are created equal," the CEO of America's third largest pharmaceutical company wrote on Twitter.
Following Fraizer's departure, the chief executives of technology company Intel Corp and sport wear brand Under Armour also quit the council. Intel chief Brian Krzanich explained his decision in a blog post, writing that he wanted to "call attention to the serious harm our divided political climate is causing to critical issues."
Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank announced his resignation on Twitter, posting: "We remain resolute in our potential and ability to improve American manufacturing," said Plank. "However, Under Armour engages in innovation and sports, not politics."
Plank had come under scrutiny last winter by some of Under Armour's high-profile athletes, including basketball star Stephen Curry, over his support for Trump.
Richard Trumka, head of the AFL-CIO union, and Scott Paul, the head of the Alliance for American Manufacturing stepped down on Tuesday. "We cannot sit on a council for a president who tolerates biogtry and domestic terrorism," Trumka said after Trump's remarks.
After the news was out, the US President immediately responded, saying in a Tweet that Frazier's resignation would give him more time to "LOWER RIPOFF DRUG PRICES!"
Frazier, who is African American, is one of several high-profile business leaders who agreed to advise the US President on the American Manufacturing Council. However, there have already been a number of resignations from the panel over differences with the Trump administration.
The CEO of e-car pioneer Tesla, Elon Musk, quit in June after the US withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement. Walt Disney Chairman and CEO Bob Iger resigned from a White House advisory council for the same reason.
A woman died and 19 people were injured in Charlottesville when a car plowed into a crowd of people after a rally by Ku Klux Klan members and other white nationalists turned violent. Two state police officers died in a helicopter crash near the area.
In an appearance Saturday at his golf resort in Bedminster, New Jersey, Trump faulted "many sides" for the violence. He made no mention of the far-right militia groups involved in the rioting, some of whom were wearing Trump hats or T-shirts.
White House officials have since made explicit they oppose bigotry and white supremacy. But Trump, whose presidential campaign was championed by prominent white supremacists such as David Duke, has come under fire not speaking out clearly on the matter.
uhe/kd (Reuters, AP, AFP)