CHARLOTTESVILLE: US President Donald Trump faced renewed pressure on Monday to respond more forcefully to a violent white-nationalist rally in Virginia, after drawing a storm of criticism when he avoided explicit condemnation of far-right groups.
In a strong rebuke to the president, the CEO of one of the world’s largest pharmaceutical firms resigned from a business panel led by Trump. Merck & Co Inc CEO Kenneth Frazier cited a need for leadership countering bigotry .
The president has been assailed by Republicans and Democrats alike over his handling of Saturday’s violence in Charlottesville, in which a woman was killed when a man drove his car into a group of counter-protesters. James Alex Fields Jr, the driver, was denied bond on Monday.
Trump met top law enforcement officials at the White House to discuss the issue.
Critics said Trump waited too long to address the violence, and slammed him for stating when he did that “many sides“ were involved, rather than explicitly condemning white-supremacist marchers.
Merck’s Frazier, who is black, did not name Trump or criticise him directly in a statement posted on the drug company’s Twitter account, but the rebuke was implicit. “America’s leaders must honor 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,“ he said.
Trump immediately hit back, but made no reference to Frazier’s comments on values, instead revisiting a longstanding gripe about expensive medicines. “Now that Ken Frazier of Merck Pharma has resigned from President’s Manufacturing Council, he will have more time to LOWER RIPOFF DRUG PRICES!“ Trump said in a Twitter post.
In his comments on Saturday, Trump denounced what he called “this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides.“
Authorities said Heyer, 32, was killed when Fields’ car slammed into a crowd of antiracism activists confronting neo-Nazis and KKK sympathisers, capping a day of bloody street brawls between the two sides in the Virginia town.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions tried to defend the president in TV interviews on Monday in which he stressed the administration was taking a robust approach to investigations.
The attack on counter protesters “does meet the definition of domestic terrorism,“ Sessions said.