Here’s Why The Hispanic Chamber CEO Isn’t Ready To Quit Trump’s Diversity Council

Here’s Why The Hispanic Chamber CEO Isn’t Ready To Quit Trump’s Diversity Council


CEOs this week quit two of Donald Trump’s business advisory councils in droves, effectively shutting them down over the president’s failure to issue a clear, unequivocal denunciation of white supremacy in the wake of the Charlottesville protest.

Starting early Monday morning with Merck CEO Ken Frazier, eight members of the Manufacturing Advisory Council quit.

The second group that quit, the Strategic and Policy Forum, was led by Blackstone CEO Stephen Schwarzman, CNN reported. It included some of the biggest players in finance and business: JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon, PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi, General Motors CEO Mary Barra, and Walmart CEO Doug McMillon.

Javier Palomarez, CEO of the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, is not in such a hurry to leave Trump’s Diversity Council.

While he said he commends the actions of the CEOs who quit the manufacturing council, he told MSNBC he’s sticking around for now, and he’s not doing it for the president.

He’s doing it for the 4.2 million Hispanic-owned firms that collectively contribute more than $668 billion dollars to the U.S. economy, Palomarez told MSNBC.

“I serve at the pleasure of the American small business owners, the job creators, and the taxpayers who put me in in this role,” he said.

Long before Palomarez became president and CEO of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, he was a homeless teen, sleeping behind a restaurant dumpster in Texas.

Orphaned at 15, Palomarez rejected his options at the time — to be adopted and become a ward of the state.

With the help of a few mentors, he rebooted his life. He went back to school, met Rebecca, the woman he would marry, and worked really hard.

“I had to impress her, so I went to night school, got my GED and saved up enough money and went to college,” Palomarez said in a 2015 NBC interview.

While Palomarez was in college, several business school professors and the dean applied on his behalf for the Wall Street Journal Student Achievement Award. The award allowed Palomarez to finish school.

“It was funny, I was so broke I couldn’t even pay attention, but I had the Wall Street Journal every morning,” he said. “It really opened my eyes and I started realizing, ‘Oh my God, there’s all kinds of stuff going on. I just need to get out of here and go find it.”

Palomarez said he has stayed hungry. “Once you’ve lived on the street, once you’ve been truly hungry, you’re never full and you’re never afraid.”

With the spotlight on him this week, Palomarez shows he’s learned a thing or two about the media. He’s using the opportunity to talk about the Hispanic Chamber.

Here’s an excerpt from the MSNBC interview:

Palomarez: A clear unequivocal denunciation of white supremacy was the order of the day. The moment was upon the president and he failed. This was a monumental failure on behalf of all of them (the administration). These are the moments that define a presidency and that define a president. I will be staying on the council as of right now. (My) job is not done yet.

MSNBC: Business owners have stepped away from the president’s manufacturing council. The AFL-CIO have stepped away. Even though it may have been in their interest to help their businesses, for moral reasons they do not want to be aligned with a man who has come out and equivocated about white supremacy. Shouldn’t you do the same thing?

Palomarez: You know I completely understand their position. I support and commend them for taking a position. They went from a thumbs-up to a middle finger very quickly and perhaps rightly so. That is their opinion. As far as I’m concerned I serve at the pleasure of the American small business owner, the job creators, the taxpayers who put me in in this role. My focus is on immigration reform, health care reform, tax reform. Those are the issues that I want to get back to. Do I commend what happened here? Do I support in any way? Absolutely not. It’s deplorable and it should have been a defining moment for this president. His presidency will be defined by this moment forever. The fact remains that there’s work to be done.

MSNBC: Did you debate internally with the Chamber of Commerce whether or not you should step aside from this council?

Palomarez: I’m debating it right now. My phone is ringing off the hook. We take no government funding of any sort. We refuse to and I serve their constituency. At some point we may decide to step off but right now the focus is on getting back to business. Business has taken a backseat to bigotry with this administration. We need to focus on the job at hand.

MSNBC: What do you think you can accomplish for your membership with a president who has endorsed the views of bigotry, who has essentially excused Nazism?

Palomarez: My job is to ensure that my constituency has a place at the table, has a voice in the dialog regardless of who is in the presidency. I don’t support what this president has said or done in the past … but the fact is that we have a job to do regardless of whether it is male, female a Republican or Democrat. Whoever is in the White House, American small businesses have to have a voice.

MSNBC: Why would you think (Trump) would even want to do anything with Hispanic businesses given his views?

Palomarez:  There are people around him like Ivanka, like Secretary Mnuchin, like Secretary Perdue, Secretary Perry who have given us an audience, who are working with us to ensure that American small business has a place at the table. Those are the people I’m focused on. If I walk away, if I give up in frustration, the only people who win are the Steve Bannons and the Steve Millers of this world. They would love to have one less Hispanic with the free access to the White House, the president, Ivanka and several secretaries.

MSNBC: it’s Donald Trump who employs them. You’ve called for Bannon to be fired because he disparages diversity. What about the president? How do you justify that with yourself and your membership?

Palomarez: The president is in the wrong here. He has failed this moment. We’re not trying to justify the president. I serve at the pleasure of American small business. Those are the people that put me in this role and until they call on me to quit I’m not going to quit. I’m not a quitter. I know the times are tough right now but this is precisely why we need to stand strong. We need to look these people in the eye and we need to debate the issues. We need to move the real agenda forward. We need to stay the course.

MSNBC: Do you see a time when you might step of this council?

Palomarez: Absolutely