Uber CEO drops out of Trump's business advisory council

Riding a self-driving Uber around San Francisco
Riding a self-driving Uber around San Francisco

In a shocking about face, Uber CEO Travis Kalanick has dropped out of President Trump's business advisory council.

Kalanick said he was not participating because of the president's immigration order in a memo to employees.

"Earlier today I spoke briefly with the president about the immigration executive order and its issues for our community," Kalanick said in the memo obtained by CNN. "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."

Kalanick was one of 19 business leaders on the council, which was scheduled to have its first meeting on Friday.

Last Friday, Trump issued a sweeping executive order, which imposed a temporary travel ban on people from seven Muslim-majority countries.

Tech companies were outraged at the order, especially as many companies were founded by immigrants.

"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," Kalanick said in the memo. "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 has previously defended his working relationship with Trump, telling employees that it is necessary to execute on Uber's mission. On Inauguration Day, protesters stood in front of Uber's San Francisco office holding a sign that read: "Uber collaborates with Trump."

Related: Elon Musk: I will raise objections to Trump's travel ban at White House meeting

A rallying cry, in the form of a hashtag, may have forced Uber's hand.

Over the weekend, #DeleteUber was trending in response to a company tweet. The New York City Taxi Worker's Alliance announced a stoppage from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday. At 7:30 p.m., Uber tweeted that it had turned off its surge pricing, which people interpreted as trying to break the strike. By Sunday, Uber tweeted an apology, saying it was meant to ensure that protesters had means to transportation.

Many pointed out the stark contrast between Uber and Lyft's reaction. Lyft was quick to pledge $1 million to the ACLU over the next four years to help "defend our Constitution."

Uber's move received widespread praise,

"We are heartened that Uber has listened to the drivers and the community on this important issue that is so integral to the promise of the American dream," said Jim Conigliaro, Jr., founder of The Independent Drivers Guild, in a statement. "This is an important show of solidarity with the immigrant drivers who helped build Uber and number over 40,000 in New York City alone."

"Membership on this council is an endorsement of bigotry, period. Thanks to the thousands of activists who protested and made their voice heard, Kalanick and Uber woke up to this reality," Farhana Khera, executive director of Muslim Advocates, said in a statement. "However, the 18 other CEOs on this business council are still trying to have it both ways."

Trump's advisory council, dubbed the Strategic and Policy Forum, includes JPMorgan Chase (JPM) CEO Jamie Dimon and former GE CEO Jack Welch. The group is expected to have a direct line to Trump and be tasked with giving him nonpartisan views on how government policy impacts the economy and jobs.

Other members include Elon Musk of Tesla (TSLA), Mary Barra of General Motors (GM), Larry Fink of Blackrock and Jim McNerney of Boeing (BA).

Musk announced late Thursday that he will use the meeting to raise objections to Trump's immigration order.

"Advisory councils simply provide advice and attending does not mean that I agree with actions by the Administration," he said in a statement posted on Twitter.

Sara O'Brien and Jethro Mullen contributed reporting.

Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated the size of the advisory council.

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