President Trump criticized pharmaceutical giant Merck and its chief executive a second time Monday, hours after his delayed denunciation of specific racist hate groups involved in the weekend’s Charlottesville, Va., tragedy.
Trump turned to Twitter, his favored social media platform, as he continued to vent anger over Merck CEO Kenneth Frazier’s Monday morning resignation from a presidential manufacturing council.
Frazier announced his decision as Trump faced bipartisan criticism for failing to immediately condemn the white supremacist groups whose Saturday protests were accompanied by an auto ramming a group of counter protesters that left one dead and 19 injured.
“America’s leaders must honor our fundamental values by clearly rejecting expressions of hatred, bigotry and group supremacy, which run counter to the American ideal that all people are created equal,” wrote Frazier.
Apparently bowing to the continuing criticism, Trump specifically denounced the Charlottesville groups in a White House speech later Monday. But he didn’t let up on Merck and Frazier.
“@Merck Pharma is a leader in higher & higher drug prices while at the same time taking jobs out of the U.S. Bring jobs back & LOWER PRICES!” Trump tweeted.
The renewed criticism doubled down on the Monday morning tweet in which Trump referenced Frazier and Merck in connection with large U.S. price hikes for prescription drugs.
Trump’s latest tweet appeared to take aim at the size of Merck’s U.S. workforce. The company’s most recent annual report said it employed approximately 26,500 people in the U.S. and Puerto Rico as of Dec. 31, 2016. The domestic employees are part of Merck’s roughly 68,000 worldwide work force, the report said.
Merck declined to comment earlier Monday on Trump’s tweet on lowering drug prices. U.S. costs for the most popular brand-name drugs in the nation have soared 208% from 2008 to 2016, according to social welfare organization AARP.
In January, Merck issued its own pricing report that showed prices of its drugs had risen 9% on average since 2010.
Contributing: Roger Yu, Charisse Jones
Follow USA TODAY reporter Kevin McCoy on Twitter: @kmccoynyc
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