Business leaders have attempted to appease the public numerous times since President Donald Trump took office in 2017—distancing themselves from Trump's statements, speaking out in favor of immigrants' rights, and even leaving his business advisory councils.
But a new report by the consumer advocacy group Public Citizen shows the limits of corporate executives' attempts to save face by publicly pushing back against Trump's racist and unpopular policies and remarks—especially when privately, they continue to associate with the president.
"The corporate class's continued coziness with the president, despite their condemnations, betrays their cowardice." —Rick Claypool, Public Citizen
"Corporate executives strongly condemned the president's bigoted comments on the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia last year, but since then, more than 100 corporate leaders from 91 businesses have flocked to the president's side," the group said.
The president claimed he'd decided to disband his Strategy and Policy Forum and Manufacturing Council last summer, after his insistence that a deadly confrontation between white supremacists and anti-racist counter-protesters had "very bad people" on "both sides" caused nationwide outrage and resulted in numerous business leaders leaving the panels.
But Trump has had more than 100 meetings with corproate executives just in the year since the Charlottesville protests—compared with 100 corporate meetings President Barack Obama had in his first seven years in the White House—even as his relations with the business community have had strained moments.
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Jamie Dimon, CEO of JP Morgan Chase; Alex Gorsky, CEO of Johnson & Johnson; and Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, all spoke out against Trump's comments, but have met with him since Charlottesville.
Boeing and General Motors also released statements after Trump disbanded the councils—but Boeing CEO Kevin McAllister met with the president just two months later, while General Motors chief Mary Barra met with him this past spring.
"The corporate class's continued coziness with the president, despite their condemnations, betrays their cowardice," said Rick Claypool, a Public Citizen research director, in a statement. "Corporate executives have demonstrated that they distanced themselves from the president just for show."
Including meetings Trump took with corporate executives before the incident in Charlottesville last year, the president has had a total of 502 corporate meetings since taking office—which have occurred alongside his promotion of the $1.5 trillion Republican tax law, which cut the corporate tax rate from 35 to 21 percent, and the rollback of environmental regulatory reforms for the fossil fuel industry.