Nucor CEO to stay on Trump council after Merck leader resigns

Nucor said Monday its CEO will remain part of President Donald Trump’s Manufacturing Jobs Initiative.
Nucor said Monday its CEO will remain part of President Donald Trump’s Manufacturing Jobs Initiative. AP

Charlotte-based steelmaker Nucor said Monday it rejects the racism expressed at a white nationalist march in Virginia that turned violent this weekend, but its CEO will remain part of a White House manufacturing initiative.

The company’s statement came after Merck CEO Kenneth Frazier resigned from the President’s American Manufacturing Council after President Donald Trump came under fire for not directly criticizing the white supremacist and hate groups involved in the Charlottesville, Va., violence.

By early afternoon, the president did issue a direct condemnation of hate groups, but it did not appear to tamp down criticism that it was not done over the weekend when fringe groups clashed with protesters.

Nucor, a Fortune 500 company, is the leading producer of steel in the U.S. and a strong advocate of domestic manufacturing. The company’s former CEO, Dan DiMicco, served as a Trump trade adviser during the campaign and worked on the White House transition team.

John Ferriola, CEO of Nucor Nucor

Nucor’s current CEO, John Ferriola, was listed as one of the 28 initial business leaders assisting with the White House’s Manufacturing Jobs Initiative.

“At Nucor, we condemn the violence that occurred this past weekend in Charlottesville and reject the hate, bigotry, and racism expressed at the demonstration,” Nucor said in its statement Monday.

“As North America’s largest steel producer, Nucor has engaged with several administrations to work on policies that help strengthen the U.S. manufacturing sector and provide opportunities for American workers. We believe a strong manufacturing sector is the backbone of a strong economy, and we will continue to serve as a member of the White House Manufacturing Jobs Initiative.”

Merck’s CEO wrote on Twitter Monday that “America’s leaders must honor our fundamental values by clearly rejecting expressions of hatred, bigotry and group supremacy, which runs counter to the American ideal that all people are created equal.”

Frazier is one of the few African-Americans to head a Fortune 500 company.

Trump mocked the executive almost immediately following the resignation, saying on Twitter that Frazier will now “have more time to LOWER RIPOFF DRUG PRICES!”

Drugmakers have come under withering criticism for soaring prices in the U.S., including by Trump, though he has yet to act on a promise to contain them.

With the barb, Trump appeared to attack an industry executive who has tried to make drug pricing somewhat more transparent by revealing his company’s overall drug price changes.

In January, Merck reported that its average net prices – the amount the company receives after discounts and other rebates – increased in the years since 2010 in a range between 3.4 percent and 6.2 percent. That’s about half as large as the increase in its retail prices.

Other corporate executives aired support for Frazier as well.

Unilever CEO Paul Polman took to Twitter to thank Frazier “for strong leadership to stand up for the moral values that made this country what it is.”

Frazier, who grew up in a poor neighborhood in Philadelphia, resigned days after one person was killed and others wounded in violent clashes between white supremacists and protesters.

Frazier is not the first executive to resign from advisory councils serving Trump. Tesla CEO Elon Musk resigned from the manufacturing council in June, and two other advisory groups to the president, after the U.S. withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement.

The Associated Press contributed