Silicon Valley’s concerns about the Trump administration continue to grow

18 Aug 2017

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Tim Cook. Image: Jstone/Shutterstock

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It has been a tumultuous few days for the Trump administration, with nine corporate leaders in total resigning from both the manufacturing and economic policy councils.

US president Donald Trump claims that he has disbanded two corporate advisory councils, following a mass exodus by major CEOs who took issue with his much-denounced statement on the horrific events in Charlottesville.

CEOs who jumped ship included Kenneth Frazier, CEO of Merck, citing ‘personal conscience’ as his reason for departing. This was the same reason given by Intel CEO Brian Krzanich for exiting the manufacturing council. He said “we should honour – not attack those who have stood up for equality and other cherished American values”.

However, withdrawal from the president’s councils began months before Charlottesville for some ex-members. Tesla and SpaceX founder, Elon Musk, and former Uber boss Travis Kalanick, are two other tech bosses who severed ties with Trump’s councils following backlash from employees, with Musk also noting Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris Agreement as a major factor.

‘I disagree with the president and others who believe that there is a moral equivalence between white supremacists and Nazis, and those who oppose them by standing up for human rights. Equating the two runs counter to our ideals as Americans’
– TIM COOK

Trump condemned by Tim Cook

Recode reported that the White House is not ready to let go of the American Technology Council (ATC) quite so easily. The council, under the supervision of Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, has never technically had members, but it has held meetings with Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, Microsoft head Satya Nadella and Apple CEO Tim Cook.

Although none of the participants have formally withdrawn themselves from the ATC, Dean Garfield, president of the Information Technology Industry Council in Washington DC, said executives are becoming less comfortable being associated with Trump.

Cook condemned Trump’s message to employees, saying: “I disagree with the president and others who believe that there is a moral equivalence between white supremacists and Nazis, and those who oppose them by standing up for human rights. Equating the two runs counter to our ideals as Americans.

“We must not witness or permit such hate and bigotry in our country, and we must be unequivocal about it,” the Apple executive said.

“This is not about the left or the right, conservative or liberal. It is about human decency and morality.”

An unsteady future for Trump and tech

An Intel spokeswoman told Recode that the company was unsure about future participation in tech talks, considering Krzanich’s departure from the manufacturing council.

Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg was searing in her statement on the events of Charlottesville, writing in a post: “The brave Heather Heyer’s mother, Susan Bro, said she wanted her daughter’s death to be a rallying cry for justice and equality and fairness and compassion. Let’s honour her by teaching all of our children how to honour and respect those values.”

With no retraction or further statements from Trump forthcoming about the far-right violence seen in Charlottesville, and many employees of tech companies voicing their anger at their workplaces collaborating with his administration, the future is very uncertain.

Tim Cook. Image: Jstone/Shutterstock

Ellen Tannam is a writer covering all manner of business and tech subjects

editorial@siliconrepublic.com