Dozens of CEOs of some of America’s largest companies have denounced President Trump for his response to the actions of white supremacists in Charlottesville after the president equated neo-Nazis with anti-racism protestors and said that the group of white nationalists included some “very fine people.”
One CEO, however, has refused to denounce the president or his response to white supremacists: Tom Fanning, CEO of Southern Co., one of the largest electric utilities in the United States.
Fanning declined to offer his opinions on Trump’s response when offered the opportunity to do so in an interview with CNBC last week:
“I don’t think that’s productive … me commenting on his comments. What’s productive for me is to keep my eye on the ball. And that is energy policy and national security … and things related the economy.”
Fanning seemed to minimize the events of Charlottesville compared to his business agenda with the White House, adding: “Don’t get distracted by this stuff. I know it’s important. I know what we stand for. I know what America stands for. We get that. Now let’s get back to the business.”
Southern Co. generates and sells electricity to much of the U.S. Southeast. Fanning’s reluctance to offer any criticism of Trump may stem from the fact that Southern Company has been aggressively lobbying the Administration for a bailout of its mid-construction Vogtle nuclear power plant in Georgia, which is teetering on the edge of collapse.
The Vogtle plant was supposed to cost $14 billion and have been completed in 2016. Instead, plagued by delays and cost overruns which have become standard in the U.S. nuclear construction issue, Vogtle is now careening toward a cost of $27 billion, and the main construction contractor, Westinghouse, filed for bankruptcy earlier this year. Southern may be forced to scuttle the plant without federal financial support.
Other companies and business groups whose CEOs have denounced Trump’s handling of Charlottesville or resigned from Trump’s business councils due to his response to Charlottesville include 3M, the AFL-CIO, the Alliance for American Manufacturing, Blackstone, Intel, Merck, Under Armour, United Technologies, Johnson & Johnson, General Electric, Campbell Soup, Apple, and 21st Century Fox. Like Southern, those companies all have business interests that could be affected by federal action.