President Donald Trump attacked the CEO of Merck for having “ripoff drug prices” after he stepped down from Trump’s manufacturing council due to the president’s tepid response to violence surrounding a white nationalist rally.
“I am resigning from the President’s American Manufacturing Council. Our country’s strength stems from its diversity and the contributions made by men and women of different faiths, races, sexual orientations and political beliefs,” Merck CEO Ken Frazier said in a statement. “America’s leaders must honor our fundamental values by clearly rejecting expressions of hatred, bigotry and group supremacy, which run counter to the American ideal that all people are created equal. As CEO of Merck and as a matter of personal conscience, I feel a responsibility to take a stand against intolerance and extremism.”
The president replied to Frazier’s statement in a tweet, “Now that Ken Frazier of Merck Pharma has resigned from President’s Manufacturing Council, he will have more time to LOWER RIPOFF DRUG PRICES!”
Now that Ken Frazier of Merck Pharma has resigned from President’s Manufacturing Council,he will have more time to LOWER RIPOFF DRUG PRICES!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 14, 2017
Trump tweeted again later in the day about Merck, and wrote, “[Merck] Pharma is a leader in higher & higher drug prices while at the same time taking jobs out of the U.S. Bring jobs back &; LOWER PRICES!”
Frazier’s statement came after widespread condemnation of the president’s response to a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, an event that devolved into clashes between rally-goers and counter-protesters. The clashes culminated in the death of one counter protester and two police officers whose helicopter crashed.
In response to the event, Trump condemned hatred and bigotry from “many sides,” but he was criticized for not specifically naming white nationalists and neo-nazis. “Mr. President – we must call evil by its name. These were white supremacists and this was domestic terrorism,” Republican Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner tweeted.
A White House official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, later put out a statement which said, “The president said very strongly in his statement yesterday that he condemns all forms of violence, bigotry, and hatred. Of course that includes white supremacists, KKK Neo-Nazi and all extremist groups.”
Trump’s response to Frazier attacking him for high drug prices is a flashback to common rhetoric from Trump on the campaign trail. As president-elect he said, “I’m going to bring down drug prices…I don’t like what has happened with drug prices.”
Updated with Trump tweet from 6:09 pm EST.