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Uber CEO Drops Out of Trump’s Economic Panel, Disney’s Bob Iger to Miss Meeting

Walt Disney Company CEO Bob Iger reportedly won’t attend a planned meeting on Friday of President Donald Trump’s strategic and policy forum, while one of its other members, Uber CEO Travis Kalanick, has left the advisory group in the wake of protests over the administration’s travel ban. A source familiar with Kalanick’s plans confirmed to Variety that he would be exiting the council and not attending the meeting.

Iger had a previously scheduled board meeting that conflicted with the White House event, according to Bloomberg News. It was confirmed by several other outlets.

The corporate watchdog group SumOfUs had called for Iger to step down from the panel, which was announced in December and is being led by Stephen A. Schwarzman, the chairman and CEO of The Blackstone Group. It also includes a number of other corporate leaders.

SumOfUs also launched a petition drive, citing Trump’s issuance of an executive order last week restricting travel from seven Muslim majority countries as well as temporarily curbing the entry of refugees into the United States.

Iger is the only entertainment industry figure on the panel. A White House spokeswoman did not immediately return a request for comment, and Disney officials did not return calls. The Trump administration has yet to confirm when the meeting was taking place, but participants such as Kalanick have said that it was scheduled for Friday.

Kalanick, in a letter to employees obtainment by Variety, wrote that even though his participation was not meant to convey an endorsement of Trump’s policies, “unfortunately it has been misinterpreted to be exactly that.”

He wrote that he spoke to Trump on Thursday informing him that he would not participate on the council.

“We must believe that the actions we take ultimately move the ball forward,” Kalanick wrote. “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.”

Kalanick faced even more pressure to step down from the Trump panel, as protesters mounted a #DeleteUber online campaign in part because of his participation. There was also anger directed at the company for turning off surge pricing to and from John F. Kennedy International Airport on Saturday evening, a move that some protesters took as trying to undercut the cab drivers union. The cab drivers had been part of the JFK protests of Trump’s policies.

Kalanick’s decision is a reversal of his previous defense of remaining on the panel. On Saturday, he wrote in a Facebook post that “while every government has their own immigration controls, allowing people from all around the world to come here and make America their home has largely been the U.S.’s policy since its founding. That means this ban will impact many innocent people — an issue that I will raise this coming Friday when I go to Washington for President Trump’s first business advisory group meeting.”

He also wrote that when it came to his participation, “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 whatever your view, please know that I’ve always believed in principled confrontation and just change; and have never shied away (maybe to my detriment) from fighting for what’s right.”

A number of corporate leaders have spoken out about Trump’s travel ban, including those from Nike, Apple, and Google, while the MPAA issued a statement earlier this week saying that they were concerned about the impact it could have on the creative community. Also weighing in were James and Lachlan Murdoch at 21st Century Fox, who wrote a letter to employees in which they talked of the value of immigration and said that they were going to provide assistance to affected employees.

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