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Aetna CEO says 'I am ashamed' of President Trump's 'behavior and comments'

  • Mark Bertolini's denunciation of Trump came hours after an exodus of other CEOs from government business councils led Trump to dissolve the panels.
  • "We are not a country of hate, and we are all judged by our own god based on the compassion and humanity we show others," the Aetna CEO wrote.
  • "We are a great nation because of our diversity which fosters sharing of ideas and experiences," Bertolini wrote.

The CEO of major health insurer Aetna on Wednesday blasted President Donald Trump for his controversial comments on a white supremacist protest in Charlottesville, Va.

"I am ashamed of our President's behavior and comments," wrote Aetna chief Mark Bertolini in a 'Dear Colleagues" internal memo to employees, which was obtained by CNBC.

The memo came to light hours after Trump announced he was disbanding two White House business advisory councils on the heels of an exodus of CEOs from those councils because of the president's comments.

Bertolini was not a member of either of those councils.

But like a number of other business leaders, he felt compelled to speak out after Trump on Tuesday again blamed "both sides" for the violence last weekend in Charlottesville, where neo-Nazis, members of the Ku Klux Klan and other bigots faced off against opponents.

Joseph Swedish, the CEO of another leading health insurer, Anthem, wrote employees a memo on Wednesday that condemned "the bigotry, hatred and racism on display in Charlottesville last weekend."

Bertolini's memo begins with a quote by slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. "Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that."

Bertolini then wrote: "I can't help but comment on the current national dialogue surrounding the deplorable violence in Charlottesville."

"I strongly agree with the remarks of former Presidents George H. W. Bush and George W. Bush who stated: 'America must always reject racial bigotry, anti-Semitism, and hatred of all forms," the CEO wrote.

"I am pleased that many other political leaders from both parties have expressed similarly strong statements – and I am ashamed of our President's behavior and comments."

Bertolini continued: "We all breathe the same air, we all want the same thing for our children's future, and we all aspire for the pursuit of happiness and good health for our families and friends. We are not a country of hate, and we are all judged by our own god based on the compassion and humanity we show others."

"I hope that each of us takes time to discuss with our family and friends the responsibility we all share, every day, to live up to the values that have made our nation so great – those of tolerance and respect for others. We are a great nation because of our diversity which fosters sharing of ideas and experiences. Our country is not perfect, but it is more tolerant than any other nation I know. We can only remain great if we remain intolerant of hate."

An Aetna spokesman declined to comment on the memo beyond confirming its authenticity. The spokesman said Bertolini would not be speaking to the media about the memo.

In his own memo, Anthem's CEO Swedish wrote, "Intolerance and discrimination run counter to everything we value as Americans, and as Anthem associates."

"The violence and radical ideology at the center of the protests were no less than an assault on human dignity and our societal foundation. There is no place for these actions or sentiments in our country," Swedish wrote.

Swedish said that Anthem's "commitment to diversity and inclusion is one that is very personal to me. As some of you may know, my parents immigrated to the United States in the early 1950s."

"As the child of immigrants, I witnessed discrimination against my parents and experienced it against us, as a family. That is why, throughout my career, I have worked so hard to prioritize a commitment to diversity and inclusion in my prior roles leading health care institutions and at Anthem."

Swedish also quoted King: "The time is always right to do what is right."

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