If Mr Trump were the CEO of a TV network and defended what Roseanne had to say, he would be forced to resign. (AP: Alex Brandon)
US President Donald Trump did not get the message last summer, after Nazis marched in a white supremacist rally on the streets of Charlottesville, Virginia, and inflicted violence that left one dead and 19 injured.
Even after 15 of the CEOs Mr Trump had recruited to advise his administration on the economy resigned from his panels, calling the President out on his equivocation over the racist rampage.
The CEO of Intel called on “all leaders to condemn the white supremacists and their ilk who marched and committed violence” in Charlottesville, and said he resigned “because I want to make progress, while many in Washington seem more concerned with attacking anyone who disagrees with them”.
The CEO of Merck said:
“Our country’s strength stems from the diversity and contributions made by men and women of different faiths, sexual orientations, and political beliefs.
“America’s leaders must honour 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.”
On a day when Starbucks was closed by its CEO so that all its employees could go through some basic training on treating customers of colour and ethnicity well, and when a major television network cancelled its #1 hit show because its “star” engaged in vicious racist denigration of an African-American and a Jewish American, the White House was silent as Mr Trump absorbed and digested the news about his friend, Roseanne. Most recently he had touted the ratings of her eponymous program after it came back on air this year.
You could laugh at Roseanne
At least Roseanne’s show served a purpose of prompting a conversation of where we are going on the most difficult social issues in these times. (Adam Rose / American Broadcasting Companies)
Love it or hate it, wedge humour or dark, savage ridicule, you could laugh and feel guilty at the same time watching Roseanne. At least it served a purpose of prompting a conversation of where we are going on the most difficult social issues in these times, when the political culture, over which Mr Trump is the predominant force today, places race, heritage and ethnicity in the crosshairs.
And after almost 24 hours of reflection, all that the 46th president — the one who succeeded the first African–American president — had to tweet was that the head of the TV network “never called President Donald J. Trump to apologize for the HORRIBLE statements made and said about me on ABC. Maybe I just didn’t get the call?”
His press secretary added: “The President is pointing to the hypocrisy in the media saying the most horrible things about this President and nobody addresses it.”
Roseanne gets a pass from Mr Trump on what she said.
These words are not in a vacuum. There are casual atrocities from this President on an almost daily basis. And they unleash and legitimise forces that rend the country’s social fabric.
Are there any Hispanics in the room?
Late last week, the Washington Post reported on an Oval Office discussion in which the President, in preparing for his State of the Union address, tried out some lines of invented Hispanic names, and crimes of rape and murder these made-up migrants might have committed.
At an April rally in Florida, before another dog-whistle soliloquy on immigration, Mr Trump asked the crowd of thousands: “Are there any Hispanics in the room?” And he proceeded to tell immigration stories. He calls some “animals”.
All of which is to say the American business community is way ahead of this President, and his Cabinet and voters, on issues of racial tolerance and moral decency.
Why? Because their customers and audiences are America in all its diversity, and no leading company in the county can afford to kick over the cultural melting pot.
America more divided than during Vietnam War
If Mr Trump were the CEO of that TV network and had equivocated as he has with Roseanne to defend what she uttered against an African-American woman and a Holocaust survivor, he would be forced to resign for the good of the business.
This is not a time of political correctness gone wild; this is, rather, a seminal moment to appreciate the fierce urgency of civic sensibility and moral courage. Indeed, of American exceptionalism.
America today is more divided than at any time since the Vietnam War. What is required is a President to bring the country together again.
A biennial meeting of America’s shareholders is being convened in November. And they will vote on how they want America’s business to be run by their CEO.
Bruce Wolpe worked with the Democrats in Congress in Barack Obama’s first term as president.