Trump supporters rioting at the Capitol on Wednesday. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images By Chip Cutter Close Chip Cutter and Emily G
In the wake of the riot at the Capitol, companies moved to cut ties with President Trump and his supporters and fired workers who participated.
Facebook Inc. banned Mr. Trump indefinitely and Canada-based Shopify Inc. closed online stores associated with Mr. Trump’s campaign and businesses. Publisher Simon & Schuster said it would drop a coming book by Sen. Josh Hawley, a key backer of Mr. Trump’s election claims. Dozens more executives and trade groups denounced the takeover of the Capitol and called for the removal of the president.
A number of companies said they fired employees who participated in the riot at the Capitol after seeing employees in photos and videos posted to social media.
Goosehead Insurance said Thursday that Paul Davis, an associate general counsel, was no longer employed by the company. In an email to employees Thursday, Goosehead CEO Mark Jones said the company was “surprised and dismayed to learn that one of our employees, without our knowledge or support, participated in a violent demonstration at our nation’s capital yesterday.” A spokesman for Goosehead, a publicly traded company based in Westlake, Texas, said Mr. Davis had been hired in mid-2020.
On an Instagram account, a user identified as Paul M. Davis wrote that he was “peacefully demonstrating” Wednesday. The account, public earlier Thursday, is now private; Mr. Davis didn’t return a request for comment.
Managers at Navistar Direct Marketing, a printing company in Frederick, Md., saw on Twitter that a man wearing a company badge was among rioters inside the U.S. Capitol. After reviewing photos, the company said the employee had been “terminated for cause.”
“While we support all employees’ right to peaceful, lawful exercise of free speech, any employee demonstrating dangerous conduct that endangers the health and safety of others will no longer have an employment opportunity with Navistar Direct Marketing,” the company said. A spokesman for the company declined to name the employee.
In most states, employers have wide latitude to terminate employees, even for conduct outside the workplace.
Ron Shaich, former CEO of Panera Bread Co. and an investor in several other chains who’s involved in No Labels, a political group that supports centrist lawmakers, said executives have the right to fire workers believed to have engaged in illegal activities.
“There’s not unlimited freedom,” he said, adding that if one of his employees had illegally entered the U.S. Capitol, he would fire them. “I’m not going to tell you you shouldn’t go to a Trump demonstration and you shouldn’t be in our company if you vote for Trump, but that’s not the same,” he said. “We as a society have got to repudiate this. This is not OK.”
Dave Petratis, CEO of Allegion PLC, a security products manufacturer with U.S. headquarters in the Indianapolis area, said he supported a statement from the National Association of Manufacturers that suggested Vice President Mike Pence consider invoking the 25th Amendment to remove the president from office.
“The middle, the saner part of America and the world’s got to step up and say: Enough,” he said, adding that this week’s events make him want to speak out more forcefully. “It just primes and motivates me for action.”
Companies might also face a backlash. The Lincoln Project, a group of anti-Trump Republicans and former Republicans, said it’s planning “a brutal corporate pressure campaign” targeting companies, trade associations, CEOs and others that “serve as the financiers of the Authoritarian movement that attacked the US Capitol,” Steve Schmidt, a political strategist and a co-founder of the Lincoln Project, said in a tweet.
In an interview Thursday evening, Mr. Schmidt said he wasn’t ready to list specific companies that will be in the crosshairs, but said the Lincoln Project thinks there are plenty worth scrutinizing.
“It’s a time for choosing: it’s America, or autocracy,” he said. “There’s going to be a public discussion around it.”
Rich Lesser, CEO of Boston Consulting Group, said the business community must be clear-eyed about President Trump’s behavior, as well as those members of Congress who acted as enablers. “If we look past these actions and treat them as an isolated event by engaging and supporting these individuals, then we also risk being complicit in encouraging future actions that destabilize our country,” he said. Mr. Lesser didn’t suggest specific actions businesses should take, but said companies have an important role to play.
More calls for removing the president came from groups as varied as National Nurses United, which represents 170,000 nurses in the U.S., and law firm Crowell & Moring LLP, which has about 1,100 employees. The Washington, D.C.-based law firm urged other firm leaders and lawyers to add their support to the firm’s letter. “The president has proven himself unfit for office, and a reckless and wanton threat to the Constitution that he pledged to preserve, protect, and defend,” the firm said.
Crowell & Moring Chairman Phil Inglima, a Democrat, said that since the firm shared the letter, he’s heard from several leaders of law firms of different sizes who want to participate. He said the firm, which has support from Republicans and Democrats internally, plans to send the letter to Mr. Pence this week.
One CEO who has been a major Trump donor said that he was frustrated by the violence and wished the president more forcefully disavowed the rioters’ actions, though he also said Mr. Trump had been maligned by opponents and the media throughout his term. The CEO said he no longer plans to financially support Mr. Trump’s future political ambitions.
Some other business leaders continue to stand with Mr. Trump and the Republican senators. John Lodge III, CEO of Lodge Lumber Co. in Houston, said he remains a supporter, personally and financially, of Mr. Trump and Sen. Ted Cruz, who objected Wednesday night to ratifying Mr. Biden’s electoral college votes in Arizona.
Mr. Lodge said he thinks the violence was staged to make Trump supporters look bad.
“I support everyone who supports the president and Ted Cruz,” he said, adding that he has a list of people who don’t support the president and they won’t get money from him in the next election, whether Republican or Democrat.
—Khadeeja Safdar, Sharon Terlep and Kathryn Dill contributed to this article.
The Storming of the Capitol
Copyright ©2020 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved. 87990cbe856818d5eddac44c7b1cdeb8
Appeared in the January 8, 2021, print edition as ‘CEOs Fire Rioters, Condemn Violence.’