News World Donald Trump loses business support, cops criticism from all sides
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Donald Trump loses business support, cops criticism from all sides

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Donald Trump faces widespread backlash after backtracking on his Charlottesville rally comments. Photo: AAP
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US President Donald Trump has lost support of high-profile business advisory councils amid backlash over his Virginia rally comments.

Mr Trump this week blamed violence in the city of Charlottesville not only on white nationalists but also on the protesters who opposed them.

The president since announced the dissolution of the American Manufacturing Council and Strategic and Policy Forum after a series of chief executives abandoned the panels.

The two councils were moving to disband when Mr Trump made his announcement on Twitter.

The Strategic and Policy Forum was headed by Blackstone Group CEO Stephen Schwarzman, a close ally of Mr Trump in the business world.

Schwarzman organised a call on Wednesday for member executives to voice concerns after Mr Trump’s comments, and an overwhelming majority backed disbanding the council, two sources said.

Schwarzman then called Mr Trump to tell him about the decision to disband, and the president subsequently announced he was the one pulling the plug on the panels.

Prominent business figures heaped scorn on Mr Trump on Wednesday.

“Racism and murder are unequivocally reprehensible and not morally equivalent to anything else that happened in Charlottesville,” Campbell Soup Co’s Denise Morrison said.

JPMorgan Chase & Co CEO Jamie Dimon, a member of one of the panels, said he strongly disagreed with Mr Trump’s reaction to the events in Charlottesville, adding in a statement that “racism, intolerance and violence are always wrong” and “fanning divisiveness is not the answer”.

Mr Trump said on Twitter, “Rather than putting pressure on the businesspeople of the Manufacturing Council & Strategy & Policy Forum, I am ending both.”

Among the very few public figures to have publicly voiced support for Mr Trump through the controversy over his response were Vice President Mike Pence, former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke and Richard Spencer, the head of a white nationalist group.

Along with the snubs from business leaders, Mr Trump was rebuked by a string of Republicans including Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell, Ohio Governor John Kasich, Senator Lindsey Graham and former US presidents George HW Bush and George W. Bush.

McConnell issued a statement saying “messages of hate and bigotry” from white supremacists, the Ku Klux Klan and neo-Nazi groups should not be welcome anywhere in the US.

Share prices on the US stock market came under pressure as the demise of the Mr Trump business panels added to investor worries about the future of the White House’s agenda.

Mr Trump’s remarks on Tuesday were a more vehement reprisal of his initial response to the bloodshed. At a heated news conference in New York, he said “there is blame on both sides” of the violence, and that there were “very fine people” on both sides.

In London, British Prime Minister Theresa May offered a rare rebuke of Mr Trump by one of the US’ closest foreign allies.

“I see no equivalence between those who propound fascist views and those who oppose them and I think it is important for all those in positions of responsibility to condemn far-right views wherever we hear them,” Ms May told reporters when asked to comment on Mr Trump’s stance.

Politicians in Germany expressed shock at the images of people in Charlottesville carrying swastikas and chanting anti-Jewish slurs.

The country’s justice minister accused Mr Trump of trivialising anti-Semitism and racism.

A crowd including Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe and US Senator Tim Kane attended a memorial service on Wednesday for Heather Heyer, the 32-year-old woman killed in Charlottesville.

– with AAP