Kenneth Frazier, the chairman and chief executive of U.S. drug maker Merck, resigned from President Donald Trump’s American Manufacturing Council on Monday morning.
Frazier, who is African-American, is the only CEO so far to leave one of Trump’s advisory councils because of his reaction to the violence in Virginia, although the AFL-CIO said it was considering pulling its representative on the committee.
In a statement, Frazier said, “As CEO of Merck and as a matter of personal conscience, I feel a responsibility to take a stand against intolerance and extremism.”
— Merck (@Merck) August 14, 2017
The statement clearly referred to Trump’s inability to condemn the bigotry and violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, on Saturday as Trump came out initially soft by saying “both sides” were at fault – and not calling out white supremacists and neo-Nazi groups.
Trump fired back on Twitter: “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
The public noted that Trump was quicker to lash out at Frazier than he had been at denouncing white nationalists.
Aside from being the latest target of Trump’s Twitter tantrums, who is Kenneth Frazier?
Kenneth Frazier is not a stranger to taking a stand.
In the beginning of his career as a lawyer, Frazier defended James Willie “Bo” Cochran, who was accused of murdering an assistant manager at a grocery store in 1976. Frazier took Cochran’s case in 1991, and Cochran’s conviction was overturned in 1995, after he had spent 19 years on death row. Cochran was retried and found not guilty in 1997.
Kenneth Frazier fired Penn State coach Joe Paterno.
As an alumnus, Frazier was picked by the Penn State Board of Trustees in 2011 to lead the committee investigating the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal, the Centre Daily Times reported.
Frazier was criticized for firing football coach Joe Paterno after the release of the Freeh Report, which included emails and other documentation suggesting that university leaders knew about Sandusky’s behavior.
Kenneth Frazier is the first African-American CEO of a major American pharmaceutical company.
Harvard Law School graduate Frazier began working at Merck in 1992. His 2006 promotion to executive vice president is often credited to his defense against litigation involving Vioxx, a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory sold by Merck that turned out to be deadly, NPR reported.
In 2011, he was named CEO, becoming the first African-American to lead a major American pharmaceutical company.
“My biggest accomplishment is staying the course, I would say, at a time when investors are increasingly skeptical of pharmaceutical research and development,” Merck told the Associated Press in 2013.
Kenneth Frazier is from Pennsylvania.
Frazier grew up in inner city Philadelphia as the son of a janitor. Although his father had limited education, Frazier called his dad “one of the most intelligent men I’ve met in my life,” Forbes reported.
Frazier’s father read two newspapers every day, and later, his three children’s college textbooks.
Frazier’s mother died when he was a child.
Kenneth Frazier wants to find a cure for Alzheimer’s.
Frazier’s late father suffered from Alzheimer’s disease, which motivated the CEO to find a cure, he told the AP.
“My father, to me, was 10 feet tall,” Frazier told the AP. “To see this disease take away his brain and to see him rendered like a child – it was devastating.”
“At 85, you have a one-in-three chance of getting Alzheimer’s or that form of dementia, so this is an incredible tsunami that’s hitting our society given the fact that people are living longer,” Frazier told Fox Business.
Merck is developing a new drug to treat it.
“We have a drug that we’re actually going to get data on in the middle of 2017. It’s called a BACE inhibitor. And what we know from human genetic studies is if you have lower levels of BACE, you’re much less likely to have dementia,” he told Fox Business. “What we need is a drug that slows down the death of the neurons, slows down the dementia process.”