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LISTEN: Former Top Exec At GM On Trump’s Reaction To Charlottesville: “Ignoring It Is Just As Bad As Supporting It”

In a special edition of The Bottom Line podcast, Rick Wartzman talks to Mike Jackson, former CMO at GM, about how companies should react to Charlottesville—and the president.

LISTEN: Former Top Exec At GM On Trump’s Reaction To Charlottesville: “Ignoring It Is Just As Bad As Supporting It”
Mike Jackson [Photo: Chris Weeks/WireImage for Ketchum Entertainment Marketing]

As Mike Jackson watched one CEO after another resign in recent days from Donald Trump’s manufacturing advisory council, he wasn’t surprised. If ever there was a clear-cut issue for corporate leaders to take a stand on, this was it: the president of the United States, in the wake of terror perpetrated by white supremacists in Charlottesville, Va., saying that there was blame on “many sides” and “both sides.”

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“Jimmy Fallon said it best . . . It’s just disgusting, right?” Jackson, the founder of the firm 2050 Marketing and a former top executive at General Motors, told me on the latest episode of my podcast, The Bottom Line. “Ignoring it is just as bad as supporting it.”

Even though Trump had earlier run afoul of some businesspeople for his stances on immigration and climate change—leading to the resignation of several CEOs from the president’s Strategic and Policy Forum—his latest statements crossed a new line. “Before last week and the whole Charlottesville tragedy,” Jackson says, “I think the path would have been different.”

By Wednesday, both the manufacturing council and the Strategic and Policy Forum had been disbanded.

Going forward, Jackson hopes that more corporations will use this as an opportunity to talk about race in America. But he cautions that not every company is equipped to do so. “You can’t just start a conversation like that,” he says. “It’s got to be part of who you are.”

For instance, Jackson points to PepsiCo (where he once worked) as a company that should “take a backseat” on the issue—no surprise, perhaps, given the insensitivity that Pepsi displayed toward the Black Lives Matter movement earlier this year with its Kendall Jenner ad.

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At the same time, Jackson praises Procter & Gamble and its recent ad campaign called “The Talk,” which depicts African American parents discussing the reality of racial bias with their kids. P&G, he says, does a great job of putting forward “a very culturally relevant, authentic discussion.”

You can listen to my entire interview with Jackson here:

The Bottom Line is a production of Capital & Main

About the author

Rick Wartzman is director of the KH Moon Center for a Functioning Society at the Drucker Institute and the author of four books, including his latest, The End of Loyalty: The Rise and Fall of Good Jobs in America. He also hosts The Bottom Line, a podcast on the intersection of business and society.

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