Companies are weighing how to respond to President Trump’s racist comments on a wide range of issues. Business leaders are reluctant to denounce an elected official by name, but many believe it’s their responsibility to speak out against such unacceptable behavior. So far, only a few business leaders have confronted the president on racism with most preferring to avoid the inevitable Twitter attacks.
- There is broad consensus that the president’s language would be unacceptable in any other arena of American life. Why is there such widespread reluctance among business leaders to denounce his racism publicly?
- Will silence on the part of leaders in schools and universities, big global companies, nonprofits, and local governments run the risk of “normalizing hate?”
- Does the president’s anti-immigrant rhetoric stoke racism in the US and lead to increased violence such as the mass shooting in El Paso on Saturday? The shooter’s manifesto described the attack as “a response to the Hispanic invasion of Texas.”
- German Chancellor Angela Merkel said that Trump’s comments about the lawmakers “undermine America’s strength.”
- With a wide array of racist remarks culminating in his “go back” tweet and the “send her back” chant at his rally, Trump has already broken the boundaries of what had been considered acceptable language about race and racial minorities in politics.
- “Anything less than wholesale public condemnation of hate speech — especially stemming from our own government — is a dereliction of our duty as Americans,” said Vanita Gupta, the president and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights.
Many corporate leaders were optimistic in the early days of the Trump administration that they could find common ground with a president who had run a business of his own and who wanted to cut corporate taxes and slash regulations. But the administration’s focus on immigration and other divisive social issues, combined with its ongoing trade war with China, has soured the White House’s relationship with many big global companies.
The CEO of German industrial giant Siemens says that President Donald Trump is becoming a symbol of intolerance following his attacks on four female members of Congress. “I find it depressing that the most important political office in the world is turning into the face of racism and exclusion,” Joe Kaeser said on Twitter.
Kaeser’s remarks are the most prominent criticism from the business world in reaction to Trump’s rally in North Carolina. The US president attacked Somali-born Minnesota Representative Ilhan Omar and the crowd chanted “Send her back! Send her back!”
The rally followed a series of racist tweets in which Trump suggested that four minority congresswomen “go back” to their home countries. Three were born in America and all four are US citizens.
Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank initially expressed support for the president during the same period in which the President’s controversial “Muslim ban” sparked a national uproar. Plank was firmly rebuked by employees, customers and Under Armour spokesperson Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.
Plank listened and among other actions in 2017, he pulled Under Armour out of the President’s Manufacturing Council and launched the new WE Will community engagement program. In addition, he publicly criticized Trump’s decision to pull the country out of the Paris Agreement on climate change.