I applaud Campbell Soup Co. president and CEO Denise Morrison’s better-late-than-never resignation Wednesday from a presidential advisory council.
Morrison’s departure, along with those of other titans of American industry, hastened the utter disintegration of the manufacturing-jobs panel they served on prior to President Trump’s repellent reactions/retractions following Saturday’s deadly events in Charlottesville, Va.
“Racism and murder are unequivocally reprehensible and are not morally equivalent to anything else that happened in Charlottesville,” Morrison said in a statement.
“I believe the president should have been — and still needs to be — unambiguous on that point,” she added. “Following [Tuesday’s] remarks from the president, I cannot remain on the Manufacturing Jobs Initiative.”
By midafternoon Wednesday, Trump had abolished the initiative; members of a companion group focused on strategic policy voted to disband.
Trump proceeded to abolish that group, too, perhaps because its members also publicly criticized his appalling assessment of a national tragedy; the president tried to assign blame equally to armored Nazi wannabes and generally peaceful counterdemonstrators, one of whom died after an allegedly Hitler-obsessed Ohio man drove into a crowd.
On social media and elsewhere, some suggest Morrison bowed to pressure from the media, citing among other stories a column I wrote early Wednesday that called on her to resign from the council. “She [Morrison] listened!” one reader said.
Others said Morrison acted only because a mass exodus from the council was imminent, and because she was concerned about public calls for a boycott of Campbell products.
I would suggest that Morrison did not become the CEO of a global food company because of her eagerness to take advice from newspaper columnists, or because she follows the herd, or — least of all — because she ignores the desires of consumers.
Alas, my requests for an interview with her have been to no avail; I would love to know what finally changed her mind. Late Tuesday afternoon, after the president’s explosive news conference, the Campbell website continued to display her declaration that she would remain on the council because it was important to have “a voice at the table.”
On Wednesday, shortly after noon, she announced her decision to leave the table altogether.
I believe Morrison chose to resign in part due to the jubilation among professional racists such as David Duke over Trump’s prevarication about Charlottesville.
Morrison, a Boston College graduate, may live in Princeton and inhabit what I imagine is the rather rarefied realm enjoyed by CEOs of vast enterprises.
But she works in Camden, the city where her storied company was born in 1869, now a mostly black and Latino city whose struggles are hardly unknown to her, or to her company.
For all its travails, Camden has been and continues to be good to Campbell, as the lush public subsidies and “incentives” the company secured (before Morrison’s arrival in 2011) attest. And through its foundation, childhood nutrition programs, and other initiatives, Campbell has worked to make Camden a better place.
Whatever the timing and whatever the final consideration of her resignation from Trump’s manufacturing initiative, Denise Morrison did the right thing Wednesday. For that, she deserves respect.