Steve Schwarzman on why Uber CEO quit Trump council: He was 'in a really difficult spot'

CEOs speak out after meeting with President Trump

Uber CEO Travis Kalanick was forced to quit President Donald Trump's economic advisory council because his association with Trump was hurting business, Blackstone CEO Steve Schwarzman told CNBC as he left the CEO meeting at the White House Friday.

"I think Travis was in a really difficult spot," said Schwarzman. "His business was being adversely affected, there was discontent among his employees — and this group actually takes a lot of time — and he basically said 'I'm encountering too much in the way of headwinds and would you mind if I stepped down.'"

Kalanick's decision to step down from Trump's advisory council reportedly angered Trump's inner circle according to a report from Axios, but was aimed at damage control.

Uber is locked in a money-losing battle with U.S. competitor Lyft, which appears to have been the beneficiary of the Uber backlash, though neither company has released any exact numbers for app downloads or deletions. The two companies compete aggressively for both riders and drivers, and switching to a competitor is as simple as downloading an app.

"Joining the group was not meant to be an endorsement of the President or his agenda but unfortunately it has been misinterpreted to be exactly that," Kalanick wrote in a memo to employees first reported by Recode and obtained by CNBC on Thursday.

Uber came under renewed pressure over the weekend for a Tweet promoting surge-free pricing during a taxi worker strike in support of immigrants impacted by Trump's Executive Order, which has been widely interpreted as a Muslim ban.

#DeleteUber trended on Twitter and more than 200,000 people reportedly deleted the Uber app from mobile phones. Uber subsequently emailed users to make clear that the company thinks President Donald Trump's immigration ban is "unjust, wrong, and against everything we stand for as a company," though much of the damage may have already been done.

A source familiar with Uber's business said the company had more people download the app than delete it this week and is monitoring the situation and weighing next steps.

Steve Schwarzman, co-founder, chairman and chief executive officer of Blackstone Group LP.
Mary Catherine Wellons | CNBC