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Apple's Tim Cook 'disagrees' with Donald Trump's take on neo-Nazi violence in Charlottesville

President Donald Trump, right, speaks as Tim Cook, chief executive officer of Apple Inc., listens during the American Technology Council roundtable hosted at the White House in Washington, D.C.
Zach Gibson | Bloomberg | Getty Images
President Donald Trump, right, speaks as Tim Cook, chief executive officer of Apple Inc., listens during the American Technology Council roundtable hosted at the White House in Washington, D.C.

Apple CEO Tim Cook called for an "unequivocal" denouncement of the neo-Nazi demonstration in Charlottesville, Virginia, last weekend, stressing he disagreed with comments by President Donald Trump that attributed the violence there to "many sides" — and not white supremacists.

In a note to Apple's employees, obtained late Wednesday by Recode, Cook also announced the company would donate $1 million each to the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Anti-Defamation League.

Apple plans to match its employees donations to human rights groups — on a 2-for-1 basis — until Sept 30, while setting up a new system in iTunes, its music software, to "offer users an easy way to join us in directly supporting the work of the SPLC," Cook said.

"Like so many of you, equality is at the core of my beliefs and values," Cook wrote. "The events of the past several days have been deeply troubling for me, and I've heard from many people at Apple who are saddened, outraged or confused," Cook told employees.

"What occurred in Charlottesville has no place in our country," he continued. "Hate is a cancer, and left unchecked it destroys everything in its path. Its scars last generations. History has taught us this time and time again, both in the United States and countries around the world."

Cook's rebuke comes hours after some of the biggest names in business -- the leaders of GE, GM, JPMorganChase and other banking, tech and energy giants -- withdrew from two councils advising Trump on economic and manufacturing issues.

Trump initially claimed he had disbanded his own groups of corporate advisors, but the executives peeled off on their own as a result of the president's controversial comments about the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia.

In recent days, Cook has been especially vocal about the incident. "We've seen the terror of white supremacy & racist violence before. It's a moral issue - an affront to America. We must all stand against it," he said in one of his tweets.

Read more from Recode:
Mark Zuckerberg says Facebook is taking down posts and 'watching the situation closely' in Charlottesville
Twitter is joining its fellow tech companies in clamping down on the Daily Stormer, a neo-Nazi website
Here are the business leaders who are — and aren't — officially advising Trump

Even before the latest controversy, however, Cook and Trump maintained a tumultuous but working relationship.

On the 2016 campaign trail, Trump repeatedly attacked Apple on everything from encryption to manufacturing. And Cook, for his part, withdrew the iPhone giant from sponsoring the Republican presidential convention, given Trump's incendiary comments about women, immigrants and minorities. Cook also held a fundraiser for Trump's Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton.

In public, Apple has warred with Trump in debates over immigration and climate change. Behind the scenes, however, Cook has labored to shape the Trump administration's policies on issues from tax reform to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights, sources previously told Recode. Cook has sounded off not only with the president individually but also his top advisors, like son-in-law Jared Kushner and his wife, Ivanka.

Here's Cook's full note:

Team,

Like so many of you, equality is at the core of my beliefs and values. The events of the past several days have been deeply troubling for me, and I've heard from many people at Apple who are saddened, outraged or confused.

What occurred in Charlottesville has no place in our country. Hate is a cancer, and left unchecked it destroys everything in its path. Its scars last generations. History has taught us this time and time again, both in the United States and countries around the world.

We must not witness or permit such hate and bigotry in our country, and we must be unequivocal about it. This is not about the left or the right, conservative or liberal. It is about human decency and morality. I disagree with the president and others who believe that there is a moral equivalence between white supremacists and Nazis, and those who oppose them by standing up for human rights. Equating the two runs counter to our ideals as Americans.

Regardless of your political views, we must all stand together on this one point — that we are all equal. As a company, through our actions, our products and our voice, we will always work to ensure that everyone is treated equally and with respect.

I believe Apple has led by example, and we're going to keep doing that. We have always welcomed people from every walk of life to our stores around the world and showed them that Apple is inclusive of everyone. We empower people to share their views and express themselves through our products.

In the wake of the tragic and repulsive events in Charlottesville, we are stepping up to help organizations who work to rid our country of hate. Apple will be making contributions of $1 million each to the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Anti-Defamation League. We will also match two-for-one our employees' donations to these and several other human rights groups, between now and September 30.

In the coming days, iTunes will offer users an easy way to join us in directly supporting the work of the SPLC.

Dr. Martin Luther King said, "Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about the things that matter." So, we will continue to speak up. These have been dark days, but I remain as optimistic as ever that the future is bright. Apple can and will play an important role in bringing about positive change.

Best,
Tim

By Tony Romm and Kara Swisher, Re/code.net.

CNBC's parent NBCUniversal is an investor in Recode's parent Vox, and the companies have a content-sharing arrangement.