Many of America's top CEOs oppose Trump's ban on Muslim immigration, won't speak out

America's top CEOs may realize that Trump's travel ban against Muslims is wrong, but they're afraid of retaliation

By Matthew Rozsa

Staff Writer

Published January 30, 2017 4:57PM (EST)

Jeff Bezos, Larry Page, Sheryl Sandberg, Mike Pence, Donald Trump and Peter Thiel meet at Trump Tower in New York, December 14, 2016.    (Getty/Timothy A. Clary)
Jeff Bezos, Larry Page, Sheryl Sandberg, Mike Pence, Donald Trump and Peter Thiel meet at Trump Tower in New York, December 14, 2016. (Getty/Timothy A. Clary)

President Donald Trump's ban on Muslim immigration may have been met with protests from some powerful Silicon Valley executives, but by and large the CEO community is too scared to speak out against it — even if they also think it's wrong.

"I had similar conversations with executives over the weekend, all of whom . . . seemed to be upset about at least the implementation of this program," said CNBC's Andrew Ross Sorkin on Monday. "They are scared out of their minds about being attacked . . . and what that's going to do for their business."

Gillian Tett of the Financial Times had a similar observation. "The danger is twofold: firstly, the fact that you've got a president who will tweet out statements that can be very damaging to the share price," Tett said. "But secondly, of course, you've got a lot of people who agree with what he's doing and who will take revenge against companies whether that's on social media or [via] boycott."

One CEO who has been willing to speak out against the Muslim travel ban is a man working for a bank that Trump has mined to staff his administration — Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein.

"The president has issued an executive order that, generally, bans individuals from seven different countries from entering the United States and freezes the broader refugee program," Blankfein said in a voice message left to his employees on Sunday. "This is not a policy we support, and I would note that it has already been challenged in federal court, and some of the order has been enjoined at least temporarily."

At the end Blankfein added, "Let me close by quoting from our business principles: 'For us to be successful, our men and women must reflect the diversity of the communities and cultures in which we operate. That means we must attract, retain and motivate people from many backgrounds and perspectives. Being diverse is not optional; it is what we must be.' Now is a fitting time to reflect on those words and the principles that underlie them."

Similarly, the State Department is reported to be circulating a "dissent channel cable," signed by both mid-level and high-level officials, that criticizes the ban on the grounds that it "does not achieve its aims and will likely be counterproductive" in the fight against terrorism and that it will "immediately sour relations with these seven countries, as well as much of the Muslim world."

By Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a professional writer whose work has appeared in multiple national media outlets since 2012 and exclusively at Salon since 2016. He received a Master's Degree in History from Rutgers-Newark in 2012, was a guest on Fox Business in 2019, repeatedly warned of Trump's impending refusal to concede during the 2020 election, spoke at the Commonwealth Club of California in 2021, was awarded a science journalism fellowship from the Metcalf Institute in 2022 and appeared on NPR in 2023. His diverse interests are reflected in his interviews including: President Jimmy Carter (1977-1981), Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak (1999-2001), animal scientist and autism activist Temple Grandin, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright (1997-2001), director Jason Reitman ("The Front Runner"), inventor Ernő Rubik, comedian Bill Burr ("F Is for Family"), novelist James Patterson ("The President's Daughter"), epidemiologist Monica Gandhi, theoretical cosmologist Janna Levin, voice actor Rob Paulsen ("Animaniacs"), mRNA vaccine pioneer Katalin Karikó, philosopher of science Vinciane Despret, actor George Takei ("Star Trek"), climatologist Michael E. Mann, World War II historian Joshua Levine (consultant to "Dunkirk"), Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (2013-present), dog cognition researcher Alexandra Horowitz, Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson (2012, 2016), comedian and writer Larry Charles ("Seinfeld"), seismologist John Vidale, Democratic vice presidential nominee Joe Lieberman (2000), Ambassador Michael McFaul (2012-2014), economist Richard Wolff, director Kevin Greutert ("Saw VI"), model Liskula Cohen, actor Rodger Bumpass ("SpongeBob Squarepants"), Senator John Hickenlooper (2021-present), Senator Martin Heinrich (2013-present), Egyptologist Richard Parkinson, Rep. Eric Swalwell (2013-present), Fox News host Tucker Carlson, actor R. J. Mitte ("Breaking Bad"), theoretical physicist Avi Loeb, biologist and genomics entrepreneur William Haseltine, comedian David Cross ("Scary Movie 2"), linguistics consultant Paul Frommer ("Avatar"), Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley (2007-2015), computer engineer and Internet co-inventor Leonard Kleinrock and right-wing insurrectionist Roger Stone.

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Ceos Donald Trump Goldman Sachs Lloyd Blankfein State Department