Uber CEO Travis Kalanick quits Trump’s advisory council; Elon Musk will stay on but objects to immigration order

Uber Chief Executive Travis Kalanick has quit a panel advising President Trump on economic issues, according to a memo sent to staff Thursday.

Kalanick faced mounting pressure from employees and customers to leave the council, especially after Trump signed an executive order Friday barring travelers and refugees from seven majority-Muslim countries from entering the United States.

“Earlier today, I spoke briefly with the president about the immigration executive order and its issues for our community,” Kalanick wrote in the memo obtained by The Times. “I also let him know that I would not be able to participate on his economic council. Joining the group was not meant to be an endorsement of the president or his agenda, but unfortunately it has been misinterpreted to be exactly that.”

The criticism of Kalanick came to a head over the weekend when Uber customers began deleting the ride-hailing app from their phones in protest of Kalanick’s cooperation with the Trump administration, prompting the hashtag #DeleteUber to trend on Twitter.

Kalanick on Saturday took to social media to defend his decision to remain on the council, saying in a Facebook post: “We partner around the world optimistically in the belief that by speaking up and engaging we can make a difference… I understand that many people internally and externally may not agree with that decision, and that’s OK. It’s the magic of living in America that people are free to disagree.”

But by Thursday, he had changed his tune, slamming the president’s executive order in his memo and telling employees that the “implicit assumption that Uber (or I) was somehow endorsing the Administration’s agenda has created a perception-reality gap between who people think we are, and who we actually are.”

The council of business executives was launched in early December to “meet with the president frequently to share their specific experience and knowledge as the president implements his plan to bring back jobs and Make America Great Again,” the initial announcement said.

Other members of the council include Tesla CEO Elon Musk, IBM CEO Ginni Rometty, former GE chairman Jack Welch, General Motors CEO Mary Barra and Disney CEO Bob Iger — who said he won’t attend the first meeting Friday because it overlaps with a company board meeting.

On Thursday afternoon, Musk said he and other council members would use the meeting to “express our objections to the recent executive order on immigration and offer suggestions for changes.”

“Advisory councils simply provide advice and attending does not mean that I agree with actions by the Administration,” Musk said in a statement. “I understand the perspective of those who object to my attending this meeting, but I believe at this time that engaging on critical issues will on balance serve the greater good.”

The full text of Kalanick’s memo to Uber staff can be read below.

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Dear Team,

Earlier today I spoke briefly with the President about the immigration executive order and its issues for our community. I also let him know that I would not be able to participate on his economic council. Joining the group was not meant to be an endorsement of the President or his agenda but unfortunately it has been misinterpreted to be exactly that.

I spent a lot of time thinking about this and mapping it to our values. There are a couple that are particularly relevant:

Inside Out - The implicit assumption that Uber (or I) was somehow endorsing the Administration’s agenda has created a perception-reality gap between who people think we are, and who we actually are.

Just Change - We must believe that the actions we take ultimately move the ball forward. There are many ways we will continue to advocate for just change on immigration but staying on the council was going to get in the way of that. The executive order is hurting many people in communities all across America. Families are being separated, people are stranded overseas and there’s a growing fear the U.S. is no longer a place that welcomes immigrants.

Immigration and openness to refugees is an important part of our country’s success and quite honestly to Uber’s. I am incredibly proud to work directly with people like Thuan and Emil, both of whom were refugees who came here to build a better life for themselves. I know it has been a tough week for many of you and your families, as well as many thousands of drivers whose stories are heartfelt and heart-wrenching.

Please know, your questions and stories on Tuesday, along with what I heard from drivers, have kept me resilient and reminded me of one of our most essential cultural values, Be Yourself. We will fight for the rights of immigrants in our communities so that each of us can be who we are with optimism and hope for the future.

Travis

tracey.lien@latimes.com

Twitter: @traceylien

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UPDATES:

6:15 p.m.: This article was updated to include comment from Elon Musk.

This article was originally published at 2:40 p.m.

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