In one of the sharpest rebukes from a major business leader against the president, the chief executive of Siemens AG said President Trump is turning into the “face of racism and exclusion” following his attacks targeting four congresswomen of color.
Joe Kaeser, who leads the German conglomerate, made the statement in response to a news article about a Trump rally last week in North Carolina where supporters directed a hostile chant toward Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), yelling “Send her back!”
The chant references a tweet Trump sent July 14 targeting four Democrats known as “the Squad.” He said they should “go back” to the “totally broken and crime infested places from which they came.” All four are U.S. citizens: Reps. Rashida Tlaib (Mich.), Ayanna Pressley (Mass.) and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (N.Y.) were born here, and Omar, who was born in Somalia, has been a naturalized citizen since 2000.
“I find it depressing that the most important political office in the world is turning into the face of racism and exclusion,” Kaeser said in a Twitter post over the weekend. “I have lived in the USA for many years, experiencing freedom, tolerance and openness as never before.”
Kaeser, who worked for Siemens in San Jose, from 1995 to 1999, previously has used his position as the head of one of Europe’s most powerful manufacturers to take a stand on political issues. Last year, he backed out of an investment conference in Saudi Arabia following the death of Jamal Khashoggi, a contributing columnist for The Washington Post, who was murdered inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul.
Trump has attempted to distance himself from the chant at his rally, claiming Thursday that he tried to stop it by “speaking very quickly” when in fact he paused for 13 seconds while it played out. He has repeatedly defended his remarks despite widespread criticism that they were racist and divisive, and continued his attacks against the four lawmakers on Monday. He called them “very Racist” and “not very smart” in a tweet sent as his motorcade made its way from the White House to the Supreme Court so he could pay his respects to Justice John Paul Stevens, who died last week and was lying in repose.
“The ‘Squad’ is a very Racist group of troublemakers who are young, inexperienced, and not very smart,” Trump wrote. “They are pulling the once great Democrat Party far left, and were against humanitarian aid at the Border . . . And are now against ICE and Homeland Security. So bad for our Country!”
Munich-based Siemens is one of the largest industrial manufacturing companies in the world, with 379,000 employees and a market cap north of $96 billion. Founded in 1847, its operations stretch from energy and health care to building technology and financial services.
Though business executives have criticized Trump’s policies and rhetoric in his two and a half years in office, including opposition to the administration’s family separation policy at the southern U.S. border, the recoil against the president’s latest derogatory remarks has come mainly from U.S. lawmakers and world leaders.
The leaders of Britain, Canada and New Zealand are among those who’ve denounced Trump’s comments. German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she “stands in solidarity” with the four congresswomen. “In my view, the strength of America lies in that people from different [origins] contributed to what makes the country great,” she said at a news conference last week, according to Business Insider.
Though some of Trump’s political allies have condemned the chant, they have been careful not to directly denounce the president.
“The chants were offensive and very unfortunate, and it did not speak well of that crowd,” said Sen. Mitt Romney (Utah), who was the Republican Party’s 2012 nominee for president. “I’ve said what I believe about the president’s responsibility in this regard, which is, I believe he has a special responsibility to unite Americans regardless of our ethnicity, race, national origin, and feel that he failed in that regard.”