A Tennessee man who was the CEO of a Tennessee-based telemedicine company was fired after a video went viral that showed him criticizing a teenage boy who wore a red dress to senior prom.
What are the details?
While gathering for pictures before the Franklin High School prom on Saturday, cell phone video showed Sam Johnson, the now-former CEO of VisuWells, confronting Dalton Stevens, a high school senior who was wearing a floor-length red dress with a thigh-high slit.
Stevens told WKRN-TV that Johnson used "slander terms" against him.
"Slander terms thrown towards me of like 'You look bad,' 'You've got hair on your chest, you shouldn't be wearing a dress,' 'You're not a man,' blah, blah, blah," Stevens told WKRN. "The fact that he thought he had the audacity to come tell me what I was supposed to wear and what I was supposed to do because of his standards."
Cell phone video captured by Stevens' boyfriend, Jacob Geittman, showed Johnson telling Stevens, "You look like an idiot." However, the video also showed Stevens using numerous expletives, and even Geittman seemingly further inciting Johnson.
"I chose what I want to wear so you can f*** off," Stevens told Johnson. "F*** off. Get the f*** away from me."
"You think he looks gross? Disgusting?" Geittman said suggestively.
(Content Warning: strong language):
"I very much view clothes as genderless," Stevens later told WKRN. "I was very confident. I knew that I felt beautiful, and I felt great."
What did VisuWells say?
The company released a statement Monday announcing that Johnson had been terminated. The company also said it would announce "concrete steps" within the coming weeks to show its support for the LGBT community.
The statement said:
We unequivocally condemn the behavior exhibited by Sam Johnson in a recent video widely circulated on social media. After investigating the matter and speaking to individuals involved, the VisuWell Board of Directors has chosen to terminate Mr. Johnson from his position as CEO, effective immediately. Gerry Andrady, our President and COO, will lead the company through this important time.
VisuWell's culture emphasizes respect, kindness, and compassion, especially for those from traditionally marginalized communities, and we maintain a zero-tolerance policy for intolerance of any kind. Mr. Johnson's actions contradicted the high standards we set for ourselves in promoting the health of those who use our platform.
We share the concerns that so many have expressed on this matter and look forward to announcing concrete steps we are taking in support of the LGBTQ community in particular over the coming weeks.
The company was later forced to release a second statement clarifying that Johnson is no longer associated with the company in any way after critics claimed the initial statement did not "acknowledge whether [Johnson is] still an employee."
The second statement read, "In response to those asking for additional clarity on Sam Johnson's termination as CEO, we can confirm that Mr. Johnson is no longer employed by VisuWell in any capacity. He no longer has a position on the Board of Directors or any informal advisory role. His behavior was not representative of our values, which include respect and compassion for all."
What did Johnson say?
Johnson told Newsweek the video was deceptively edited and did not tell the entire story. He explained that he only interacted with the teenagers to ask them to tone down their "obnoxious, loud behavior" outside a restaurant.
Johnson said the incident "wasn't anything personal or involving a dress."
"We had just sat down for dinner at this restaurant that we frequent, and I was returning from the restroom when I was presented with their loud cursing," Johnson told Newsweek. "Making it about the dress was their idea and they edited out most of the exchange."