Kevin Lamarque / Reuters
The head of IBM, who also advises the president on business matters, sent a company wide memo Thursday defending her collaboration with the Trump Administration, as tech executives from Travis Kalanick to Elon Musk face intensifying pressure to challenge the White House on immigration and other issues.
“Some have suggested that we should not engage with the U.S. administration. I disagree,” IBM CEO Ginni Rometty told employees last week, in a letter obtained by BuzzFeed News. “Our experience has taught us that engagement – reaching out, listening and having authentic dialogue – is the best path to good outcomes.”
IBM declined to comment but did confirm the authenticity of the memo.
Rometty, like SpaceX and Tesla chief Elon Musk, serves as a business advisor to the president on his Strategic and Policy Forum. The group first met with Trump earlier this month, when they discussed jobs, cybersecurity, and the president’s recent immigration order that barred refugees and people from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the US.
At the White House meeting, Rometty said in the letter that she discussed “ways that advanced technology could address national security imperatives while also permitting lawful immigration and travel.” She added: “I explained that this is not an either/or choice. Our points were heard, and we will continue to engage to find solutions that align with our values.”
Rometty described her meeting with the president as part of a long history of non-partisan, public engagement at the company. “IBM leaders have been engaging directly with every U.S. president since Woodrow Wilson, and this was my ninth such meeting since becoming CEO,” she said.
Her stance contrasts with that of Uber CEO Travis Kalanick, who was slated to attend that White House meeting but backed out just a day before after mounting criticism and a viral #DeleteUber campaign. In a letter to his employees, Kalanick announced that he would no longer be a part of the 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,” he said. Musk, on the other hand, said he would stay on as an advisor to the president for “the greater good.”
In December a spokesperson for the company told BuzzFeed News that IBM would no help build or provide data for a Muslim registry, an idea Trump proposed during the presidential campaign. “No, IBM would not work on this hypothetical project. Our company has long-standing values and a strong track record of opposing discrimination against anyone on the basis of race, gender, sexual orientation or religion. That perspective has not changed, and never will.”