Trump's Surprise Pick for Policy Advice: Indra Nooyi

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PepsiCo's Indra Nooyi
PepsiCo's Indra Nooyi

PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi -- who seemed ready to cry in the wake of Donald Trump's election -- has apparently made peace with the president-elect. Ms. Nooyi has been added to a group of business leaders who will be charged with advising Mr. Trump " on how government policy impacts economic growth, job creation and productivity," according to a statement made today the Trump transition team.

Also added today to the so-called President's Strategic and Policy Forum are Travis Kalanick, CEO and co-founder of Uber Technologies; and Elon Musk, chairman-CEO of SpaceX and Tesla. Previously announced members of the 19-person group include General Motors CEO Mary Barra; Walt Disney Co. CEO Bob Iger; Wal-Mart Stores CEO Doug McMillon; and IBM CEO Ginni Rometty.

Ms. Nooyi's selection is a bit of a surprise considering the comments she made in the wake of the election at the The New York Times's DealBook conference. When Andrew Ross Sorkin asked her how she felt the day after the election, Ms. Nooyi replied: "Do you have a box of tissues here?"

Ms. Nooyi, an Indian-born immigrant, continued: "I had to answer a lot of questions, from my daughters, from my employees -- they were all in mourning," she said. "Our employees are all crying and the question that they are asking, especially those who are not white: 'Are we safe?' Women are asking, 'Are we safe?' L.G.B.T. people are asking, 'Are we safe?' I never thought I'd have had to answer those questions."

PepsiCo later issued a statement saying that Ms. Nooyi misspoke. "She was referring to the reaction of a group of employees she spoke to who were apprehensive about the outcome of the election," according to the statement. "She never intended to imply that all employees feel the same way. We are incredibly proud of the diverse views and backgrounds across our workforce, and we are united in our desire for a brighter future."

In her original comments, Ms. Nooyi also congratulated Mr. Trump and said that "we have to come together and life has to go on."

But PepsiCo still faced a backlash among some Trump supporters who threatened boycotts. The response, however, was partly driven by false reports of Ms. Nooyi's original comments. As Fortune reported, "online boycotts began to float around alleging she said she 'loathed' President-elect Donald Trump and 'hated his supporters." But as Fortune pointed out, Ms. Nooyi "never said any of that—not even close."

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