Even the beneficiaries of their repugnant tax scheme are becoming fed up with the Republican party at this point. That’s the message to be gleaned from the report in The Columbus Dispatch today that billionaire Les Wexner, the CEO of L Brands — the parent company of retailers including Victoria’s Secret, Bath & Body Works, and Henri Bendel, among others—has denounced the party to which he had been a major donor.
“I just decided I’m no longer a Republican,” said Wexner, speaking on Thursday during a panel discussion about civility at a Columbus Partnership and YPO Leadership Summit. “I’m an independent,” he said. “I won’t support this nonsense in the Republican Party. I’ve been a Republican since college, joined the Young Republican Club at Ohio State.”
“I haven’t run an ad in the newspaper that said, ‘I quit,’” he told the gathering on Thursday. Instead, he’s been writing notes to his friends in elective office who are Republicans, telling them, “I want you to know that now I’m an independent.”
The executive has long donated to Republican candidates in both state and federal elections, but criticised both Donald Trump and Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, during the 2016 presidential election, comparing them to squabbling Roman emperors.
That Wexner’s decision is related to President Trump is undeniable. Last year he said in a speech to L Brands employees that he felt “dirty” and “ashamed” following Trump’s comments that there are “very fine people on both sides” in response to Nazi-inspired violence that erupted at the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.
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On Thursday, he told the crowd that the incident caused him to lose sleep, and he told the crowd that he recalls thinking that “I have to do something because the leader of our country is behaving poorly.”
In a move that will surely anger the president even more than losing a major Republican donor, Wexner praised former President Obama who had visited Columbus earlier in the day as part of his efforts to support the campaign of Richard Cordray, the former head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau who is now running for Governor of Ohio.
“I was struck by the genuineness of the man; his candor, humility and empathy for others,” said Wexner in describing Obama.
According to The Columbus Dispatch, Wexner has become a forceful advocate of civility in politics, with he and his wife donating nearly $3 million to With Honor, a PAC that supports both Democratic and Republican military veterans running for office who agree to a pledge to conduct themselves with civility and to meet one-on-one with a member of the opposing party at least once a month. Wexner’s comments were welcome by local Democratic politicians.
Former Democratic Columbus Mayor Michael B. Coleman said he was “concerned by people who talk about civility, then don’t speak up or stand up. Les Wexner spoke up, but in our political community, it’s the silence of the lambs.”
As for the billionaire CEO, Wexner explained his break with the Republican party by saying: “I just have to say something. If you don’t think things are right, open your mouth.”
Hopefully, other billionaire donors will see the damage that a Republican party subservient to the Trump agenda is causing the country and will follow suit.
Follow Vinnie Longobardo on Twitter.