McDonald’s head honcho Chris Kempczinski has issued an apology for his texts to the mayor of Chicago that sparked protests by critics who accused the fast-food CEO of racism.
Kempczinski plans to address US employees, including some at the company’s Chicago headquarters and others virtually, Monday afternoon, according to the Wall Street Journal.
The CEO has apologized for the text exchange with Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot in calls and messages over the past week, according to the Journal.
In one nearly six-minute video recorded at McDonald’s headquarters Saturday and viewed by the Journal, Kempczinski told US employees, restaurant owners and suppliers that he is “learning from this.”
“I believe that starts with more listening and learning from more people whose life experiences are different from my own,” he added.
The apology comes after a text Kempczinski sent to Lightfoot on April 19 but was revealed just last week appeared to blame parents who “failed” their children, who were recently killed in gun violence.
“p.s. tragic shootings last week, both at our restaurant yesterday and with Adam Toldeo [sic]. With both, the parents failed those kids which I know is something you can’t say. Even harder to fix,” Kempczinski wrote in the text, which was published in response to a Freedom of Information Act request.
The text was sent shortly after Lightfoot had visited the McDonald’s headquarters and appeared to be referring to the deaths of Jaslyn Adams, 7, who was killed the day before the text in her father’s car outside a Chicago area McDonald’s, and Adam Toledo, 13, who was fatally shot by police the month prior.
“Those comments were wrong, and I’m sorry. I’m sorry I let you down. And I let myself down,” Kempczinski said in the video to US employees, operators and suppliers that was recorded Saturday and viewed by the Journal.
“I have, through my background, a very narrow worldview,” he added. “My comments to Mayor Lightfoot revealed that ignorance.”
At times in the Saturday video, according to the Journal, Kempczinski appeared emotional and his voice broke throughout the video apology, especially as he explained that his own daughter asked why he wrote the text.
“In that question, there’s a lot. Disappointment. Confusion. And certainly disagree with the idea and the sentiment that was expressed,” he said in the message.
Kempczinski, who became CEO of the burger chain two years ago, was out of the country at the COP26 environmental summit last week when the text exchange with Lightfoot sparked backlash.
A group of 12 organizations, including Fight for $15 and the Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression, published an open letter accusing Kempczinski of racism.
“It’s clear to us you’re the one who has failed here,” the letter said. “Your text message was ignorant, racist and unacceptable coming from anyone, let alone the CEO of McDonald’s, a company that spends big money to market to communities of color and purports to stand with Black lives.”
The groups organized a protest last week outside McDonald’s headquarters.
“As the Mayor has said previously, families do everything they can — moms, dads, grandparents — to love and support their children, and tragedies can still happen. Victim shaming has no place in this conversation,” a spokesperson for Lightfoot said in response to questions about the text exchange.