The billionaire head of the world’s largest alternative investment firm laid out how his business council, which advised the Trump administration, wound down in the wake of Charlottesville.
In his first public comments since Trump’s corporate councils disbanded, Blackstone CEO Stephen Schwarzman detailed the enormous backlash he faced.
“You should have seen some of the emails I got,” he told a Wall Street audience at the Delivering Alpha conference in New York on Tuesday, September 12. He said he received hundreds of such emails.
“I was accused by people of being a Nazi,” he added. “I mean, I’m Jewish. It was absurd.”
Schwarzman led the strategy and policy forum, which comprised CEOs advising the president. A wave of CEOs quit advising Trump following the president’s comments equivocating violence in Charlottesville by white supremacists, which left one person dead, with that of counter protesters.
Schwarzman also disputed an account by the New York Times, which cited anonymous sources calling him outraged about Trump’s remarks on Charlottesville.
“I wasn’t outraged,” Schwarzman said at the conference. “I don’t know where the New York Times got that one.”
Here’s a summary of what Schwarzman said about leading the councils (emphasis added):
“What happened is, people who were running public companies at that time were concerned about employee reaction to what the president said or didn’t say. There were customer issues for those companies where the CEOs felt under pressure. There were shareholders that were unhappy. I asked each person what they wanted to do, I gave them one minute each. I wasn’t interested in anyone’s life history. People were under legitimately, astonishing pressure.”
Despite the criticism, Schwarzman said there was a societal obligation for business leaders to help the government.
“We all have a higher obligation than just making money,” Schwarzman said. “If you can make things better, it doesn’t matter if they’re Democrats or Republicans, do what you’re personally comfortable with. More people should do it.”