Apple CEO slams Trump position on Charlottesville neo-Nazi violence

Apple chief Tim Cook has criticized the president's belief of "moral equivalence" between white supremacists and protestors.

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Josh Miller/CNET

In a letter to employees, Apple CEO Tim Cook has slammed US President Trump's position on the recent violence between neo-Nazis and protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia.

On Saturday, a white nationalist rally in the area turned deadly when an alleged member of the rally drove a car into anti-racism protestors, leaving one woman dead and many injured.

Trump failed to denounce the white supremacists or their actions and initially blamed "both sides" for the eruption of violence. The president then condemned the rally as a "display of hatred, bigotry, and violence on many sides," but did not condemn neo-Nazis by name -- before backpedaling by once again insisting both groups "came at each other with clubs."

"You had a group on one side that was bad," Trump said at a press conference. "You had a group on the other side that was also very violent."

Trump's handling of the rally violence has led to widespread criticism, and as a further consequence, a number of CEOs have jumped ship from Trump's advisory councils.

In an email to Apple staff members, obtained on Wednesday by Recode, Cook said the events of the past several days have been "deeply troubling," especially as "like so many of you, equality is at the core of my beliefs and values."

"I disagree with the president and others who believe that there is a moral equivalence between white supremacists and Nazis, and those who oppose them by standing up for human rights," Cook said. "Equating the two runs counter to our ideals as Americans."

The executive asked employees for an "unequivocal" stance on the violence, regardless of political views, as "we must not witness or permit such hate and bigotry in our country."

"What occurred in Charlottesville has no place in our country," Cook wrote. "Hate is a cancer, and left unchecked it destroys everything in its path. Its scars last generations. History has taught us this time and time again, both in the United States and countries around the world."

As with many things in life, statements do not just have to be made with words -- money also speaks volumes.

To cement Apple's stance, the company will also be donating $1 million each to both the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) and the Anti-Defamation League (ADL).

Both organizations have slammed Trump's handling of the clashes.

"It [the violence] needs to be condemned without hesitation," the ADL said in a statement. "President Trump has had a pattern of equivocating on prejudice."

The SPLC said that Trump's "ducking and weaving, [and] his petulant behavior" could be overlooked if the situation weren't so serious, but considering the heart of the demonstration and counter-protest, his actions are "simply bizarre and disheartening."

Apple also plans to match two-for-one any employee donations to the organizations and other human rights groups until 30 September, and will introduce what may be some kind of donation mechanism for iTunes users to "join us in directly supporting the work of the SPLC," should they wish.

In a move which appears to be related, Apple Pay has also dropped support for a number of websites which sell clothing adorned with Nazi symbols and "white pride."

PayPal has also announced plans to disable its service on sites that "promote hate, violence or racial intolerance."

The full note sent by Cook is below.

Team,
Like so many of you, equality is at the core of my beliefs and values. The events of the past several days have been deeply troubling for me, and I've heard from many people at Apple who are saddened, outraged or confused.
What occurred in Charlottesville has no place in our country. Hate is a cancer, and left unchecked it destroys everything in its path. Its scars last generations. History has taught us this time and time again, both in the United States and countries around the world.
We must not witness or permit such hate and bigotry in our country, and we must be unequivocal about it. This is not about the left or the right, conservative or liberal. It is about human decency and morality. I disagree with the president and others who believe that there is a moral equivalence between white supremacists and Nazis, and those who oppose them by standing up for human rights. Equating the two runs counter to our ideals as Americans.
Regardless of your political views, we must all stand together on this one point - that we are all equal. As a company, through our actions, our products and our voice, we will always work to ensure that everyone is treated equally and with respect.
I believe Apple has led by example, and we're going to keep doing that. We have always welcomed people from every walk of life to our stores around the world and showed them that Apple is inclusive of everyone. We empower people to share their views and express themselves through our products.
In the wake of the tragic and repulsive events in Charlottesville, we are stepping up to help organizations who work to rid our country of hate. Apple will be making contributions of $1 million each to the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Anti-Defamation League. We will also match two-for-one our employees' donations to these and several other human rights groups, between now and September 30.
In the coming days, iTunes will offer users an easy way to join us in directly supporting the work of the SPLC.
Dr. Martin Luther King said, "Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about the things that matter." So, we will continue to speak up. These have been dark days, but I remain as optimistic as ever that the future is bright. Apple can and will play an important role in bringing about positive change.
Best,
Tim

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