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Intel chief resigns from Trump council

Brian Krzanich, CEO of IntelImage copyright
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Intel chief Brian Krzanich said there should be “no hesitation in condemning hate speech”

US President Donald Trump said there were “very fine people on both sides”, as he defended his response to a violent rally in Charlottesville involving white supremacist and neo-Nazi groups.

His comments came as US business leaders moved to distance themselves from the president over his position.

Four executives have quit a White House business panel.

Other firms, including Walmart, issued statements criticising the response.

Mr Trump made the comments at a news conference on Tuesday afternoon.

“I think there’s blame on both sides,” he said.

Mr Trump has been widely rebuked for his initial response after a rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, involving white supremacist and neo-Nazi groups became violent.

In his first remarks, he did not specifically denounce the far right, instead ascribing blame to “many sides”.

Bowing to pressure, the president issued a statement on Monday calling the Ku Klux Klan, neo-Nazis and white supremacists “repugnant” to everything Americans held dear.

But on Tuesday, Mr Trump said he wanted full facts before making his statement and appeared to return to his initial response.

“There are two sides,” he said.

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‘Critical opportunity’

The remarks come as Mr Trump is seeing fallout from his reaction within the corporate community.

On Tuesday, Scott Paul, the president of the business group the Alliance for American Manufacturing, became the fourth executive to say he would no longer participate in one of the White House business councils.

Walmart, which typically avoids political controversy, also shared a statement from its chief executive, saying Mr Trump “missed a critical opportunity to help bring our country together by unequivocally rejecting the appalling actions of white supremacists”.

However, Walmart boss Doug McMillon did not say he would step down.

Mr Trump said executives were leaving “out of embarrassment”, saying their companies rely on overseas manufacturing.

Shannon Coulter, who co-founded the #grabyourwallet boycott against companies that do business with Mr Trump, said the recent events have added momentum to the campaign.

“Charlottesville has definitely escalated the issue of associating oneself with the Trumps,” she told the BBC. “I think it’s increasingly clear to CEOs on his councils that the Trump name and identity is toxic and that for the sake of their brands they need to get away from it as quickly as possible.”

‘Personal conscience’

Ken Frazier, the head of drugs giant Merck, led the walkout from the White House manufacturing council on Monday morning.

One of only a handful of black leaders of Fortune 500 companies, Mr Frazier said he would no longer participate, calling it a matter of “personal conscience”.

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Donald Trump and Ken Frazier during a previous White House meeting

Mr Frazier said: “I feel a responsibility to take a stand against intolerance and extremism.”

“America’s leaders must honour our fundamental views by clearly rejecting expressions of hatred, bigotry and group supremacy, which run counter to the American ideal that all people are created equal.”

In response, Mr Trump tweeted that Mr Frazier would now have “more time to lower rip-off drug prices”.

Elsewhere, Mr Frazier’s decision was met with praise and sparked calls from the public for other leaders involved in Mr Trump’s panels to follow suit.

Kevin Plank, the chief executive of sports apparel company Under Armour, said he was resigning on Monday night. His decision came after he faced backlash from shoppers – and some Under Armour-sponsored athletes – earlier this year when he praised Mr Trump’s pro-business views.

Intel boss Brian Krzanich also said on Monday that he would resign.

In a blog post on Intel’s website, Mr Krzanich said he was leaving “to call attention to the serious harm our divided political climate is causing to critical issues, including the serious need to address the decline of American manufacturing”.

“Politics and political agendas have sidelined the important mission of rebuilding America’s manufacturing base.”

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Under Armour boss Kevin Plank (seated right) came under pressure to resign from the council.

Earlier business response

Other company heads have previously stepped down from presidential advisory councils in protest of Mr Trump’s policies.

Former Uber chief executive Travis Kalanick left a business advisory council in February over the Trump administration’s immigration policies.

Tesla’s chief executive Elon Musk and Walt Disney’s chief executive Robert Iger left the President’s Strategic and Policy Forum in June, after Mr Trump said he would withdraw from the Paris climate accord.

Mr Musk also left the manufacturing council.

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