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'It's all about him': CEO rips Trump over Charlottesville

  • The CEO of The Peebles Corporation says he regrets keeping an open mind about Trump.
  • Donald Trump's response to violent protests from white supremacist groups received widespread criticism.
  • Trump says he ended both of his administration's councils of CEOs on Wednesday, though one disbanded beforehand.

It's time to rescind the benefit of the doubt for President Donald Trump, said the CEO and chairman of The Peebles Corporation.

"I'm disappointed in myself that I actually kept an open mind, because at the end of the day, he told us what he was going to do," CEO Don Peebles said Wednesday on CNBC's "Power Lunch."

Trump's unwillingness to categorically denounce racism and anti-Semitism following a violent clash in Charlottesville, Virginia, on Saturday was "astonishing," Peebles said.

"When it comes to racism and anti-Semitism and fairness, you can't walk a gray line," he said.

Trump received intense bipartisan criticism after failing to name and disavow the racist groups in his initial statement, and for appearing to equate those people with counterprotesters who also showed up.

"We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence — on many sides, on many sides," Trump said on Saturday.

Peebles rejected the argument that Trump, in a follow-up statement on Monday, did condemn the white supremacists, KKK members and neo-Nazis who organized and attended the protests.

"What's missing is the fact that he did not stand up and emphatically say that these people have no place in this country, and they have no place in his administration and he does not have their support," Peebles said.

A car allegedly driven by a suspected white nationalist rammed into counterprotesters in Charlottesville, killing one woman and injuring 19 others.

"He did not articulate compassion for the young woman who lost her life. He talked about himself and how her mother complimented him. Because it's all about him, not about this nation." -Don Peebles, CEO of The Peebles Corporation

On Tuesday, in a freewheeling news conference that quickly drifted away from the planned subject of infrastructure, Trump defended his initial statement and said that the weekend protests included "very fine people on both sides."

"He did not articulate compassion for the young woman who lost her life," Peebles said. "He talked about himself and how her mother complimented him. Because it's all about him, not about this nation. It never has been — with him — about this nation. It's been about him."

Peebles is far from the only CEO to break ranks with Trump over his response to the violence in Charlottesville. On Wednesday, the administration's Strategic and Policy Forum, comprising 17 CEOs, voluntarily disbanded in order to "condemn" Trump's remarks.

The President's Manufacturing Council had been hemorrhaging CEOs as well, beginning with Merck's Kenneth Frazier, the only African-American CEO on the council.

After the Strategic and Policy Forum dissolved, Trump announced on Twitter that he was "ending both" groups "rather than putting pressure on the businesspeople" in them.

Peebles said he had been cautiously optimistic about the president in the past that Trump's pro-business platform and experience could help minorities and women succeed in the economy but he could defend the president no longer.

"Our best days are ahead of us, and we always strive to be a more perfect nation," Peebles said, "and he clearly wants to take us back into a time where none of us want to be."

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