Merck CEO Kenneth Frazier. Photo: Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images

Kenneth Frazier, CEO of the pharmaceuticals company Merck, was the first CEO to leave one of President Trump's business advisory councils last August after the president made divisive remarks following the white nationalist Charlottesville protests. Now, he's explaining why he abandoned Trump's council in a new interview with the New York Times:

“In this case, we were not talking about politics. We were talking about the basic values of the country. ... I think words have consequences and I think actions have consequences. I just felt that as a matter of my own personal conscience, I could not remain.”

Why it matters: The NYT interview is the first time Frazier has spoken publicly about this situation and it brings Trump's controversial Charlottesville comments back to light in a time when he's facing allegations from multiple women about past affairs.

More from Frazier:

  • “It was my view that to not take a stand on this would be viewed as a tacit endorsement of what had happened and what was said,” he told NYT.
  • He's the grandson of a man who was born into slavery. At the time he left the business council, he tweeted from Merck's account: “I feel a responsibility to take a stand against extremism,” he wrote on Merck’s Twitter account at the time.
  • “In that moment, the president’s response was one that I felt was not in concordance with my views," Frazier told NYT. "And I didn’t think they were in concordance with the views that we claim to hold as a country.”

One more thing: Charlottesville wasn't the only Trump moment Frazier disagreed with. “There were things that happened earlier on in this administration that I didn’t necessarily agree with, about immigration and climate change, but I didn’t think that it was my role to actually speak out on those issues,” he told NYT. “There’s a process for deciding how we address those issues as a country. This is a democracy.”

Go deeper

Updated 38 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 6:30 p.m. ET: 34,124,948 — Total deaths: 1,016,723 — Total recoveries: 23,703,113Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 6:30 p.m. ET: 7,273,244 — Total deaths: 207,605 — Total recoveries: 2,840,747 — Total tests: 103,946,170Map.
  3. Politics: House prepares to pass revised COVID relief bill as White House talks hit roadblock — Biden to expand voter outreach with in-person canvassing amid pandemic.
  4. Health: Health officials urge flu shots, warning of "twindemic" with COVID-19 — Coronavirus infections rise in 25 states.
  5. Business: Remdesivir is good business for Gilead — Amazon says over 19,800 employees contracted coronavirus — Doomsday has arrived for tens of thousands of workers.

Doomsday has arrived for tens of thousands of workers

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Federal coronavirus aid for airlines expires on Thursday with no renewal in sight, meaning massive layoffs for the industry aren't far behind.

The big picture: Airline workers aren't alone on the unemployment line. Oil companies, tire manufacturers, book publishers and insurers are among those that have announced tens of thousands of layoffs. Federal aid through the CARES Act earlier this year delayed most layoffs — until now.

4 hours ago - Science

How the brain handles the unknown

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Uncertainty can be hard for humans. It drives anxiety, an emotion neuroscientists are trying to understand and psychologists are trying to better treat.

Why it matters: Under the threat of a virus, job insecurity, election uncertainty, and a general pandemic life-in-limbo that is upending school, holidays and more, people are especially anxious.