Billionaire businessman Mark Cuban told Business Insider Thursday that it’s “no surprise” CEOs began to abandon President Donald Trump’s business councils following his response to the violence at white nationalist protests in Charlottesville, Virginia, this past weekend.
By Wednesday, with CEOs exiting the councils en masse, Trump tweeted that he was ending the Manufacturing Jobs Initiative and the Strategic and Policy Forum. Members of the latter council planned to announce its disbanding in a statement, but Trump published his tweet before they could do so, The New York Times reported.
Cuban, the owner of the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks and star of ABC’s “Shark Tank,” called the mass exodus from the councils “an obvious business decision” as the CEOs saw that “more downside was far more certain than upside.”
“It’s not like it was obvious there wouldn’t be future incidents,” Cuban said in an email. “Of course there will be.”
Departures from the councils began with Merck CEO Kenneth Frazier leaving the manufacturing council on Monday, setting off a wave of departures. Frazier and other business leaders cited Trump’s response to the Charlottesville violence, during which a white supremacist rammed his car into a group of counterprotesters, killing one person and injuring roughly 20 more. Trump initially attacked the executives who departed, calling them “grandstanders.”
Trump initially blamed “many sides,” for the violence before on Monday condemning the racist movements that gathered to rally against the removal of a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee. But during a Tuesday press conference at Trump Tower that was supposed to focus on infrastructure, Trump reverted to his earlier position, claiming that the “alt-left” was at least partially responsible for the violence as well and wondering whether the counterprotesters have any “semblance of guilt.”
A day later, the councils were disbanded.
While the councils featured prominent business executives such as Frazier, JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon, and Blackstone CEO Steve Schwarzman, each council only met once. The Strategic and Policy Forum met February 3 and the manufacturing council met on February 23.
The business executives on the Strategic and Policy forum said in a statement that their participation in the group was becoming a “distraction from our well-intentioned and sincere desire to aid vital policy discussion.”
The statement did not, however, mention continuing any work that they had begun as a part of the council.
Cuban said that if “real work was being accomplished, someone would have mentioned they were disappointed that they would not be able to continue working on [X] project, or that they would work with other council members to continue the great work being done.”
“I have yet to see any positive mention of any work done by either council,” he continued. “If there was no real work being done, other than grovelling for government contracts, what would be the value in staying on the council?”
Cuban, who has emerged as an often vocal critic of Trump, has hinted that he may run for president in 2020.
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