After Riot, Business Leaders Reckon With Their Support for Trump  <font color="#6f6f6f">The New York Times</font>

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After Riot, Business Leaders Reckon With Their Support for Trump

Many in corporate America endorsed the president’s economic policies, which were good for them and gave him mainstream business credibility. It was “fool’s gold,” one said on Thursday.

Numerous business leaders condemned the actions of the mob at the Capitol on Wednesday.
Credit…Kenny Holston for The New York Times

Big business struck a Faustian bargain with President Trump.

When he said something incendiary or flirted with authoritarianism, high-minded chief executives would issue vague, moralizing statements and try to distance themselves from a pro-business president who coveted their approval.

But when Mr. Trump cut taxes, rolled back onerous regulations or used them as props for a photo op, they would applaud his leadership and grin for the cameras.

After Wednesday’s events on Capitol Hill, the true cost of that balancing act was plain to see, even through the tear gas wafting in the rotunda.

The executives who stood by Mr. Trump were ultimately among his enablers, bestowing him with the imprimatur of mainstream business credibility and normalizing a president who has turned the country against itself.

Darren Walker, the president of the Ford Foundation and a board member at Square and Ralph Lauren. “It is ultimately bad for business and bad for society.”

From the start of Mr. Trump’s presidency, corporate America has vacillated between supporting the president’s economic agenda and condemning his worst impulses.

said at the time. “I would try to help any president of the United States because I’m a patriot.”

Ken Frazier, one of the most prominent Black executives in the country, who was the first to quit the councils, said shortly after leaving. “I just felt that as a matter of my own personal conscience, I could not remain.”

But money has a short memory, and it wasn’t long after Charlottesville that Mr. Trump was back in the good graces of corporate America. Just months later, the Trump administration passed a tax overhaul that delivered a windfall to corporations and wealthy individuals.

By lowering corporate taxes, Mr. Trump delivered the business community one of its most coveted prizes, and business leaders lined up to support the effort.

At a White House appearance with Mr. Trump in October 2017, Tom Donohue, the chief executive of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, delighted at the prospect of the tax cuts. “The business community has been waiting a long time for an administration and the president and a willing Congress to do what we haven’t done for many decades,” Mr. Donohue said.

Yet by basking in their new riches, companies were drawn that much closer to a White House that was separating children from their families at the border and cozying up with dictatorial regimes.