McDonald’s CEO apologizes after Chicago gunshot death texts surface

Chris Kempczinski of McDonald’s speaks at a press conference in New York City, November 17, 2016.

Shannon Stapleton | Reuters

McDonald’s CEO Chris Kempczinski met with employees Monday at company headquarters and online to discuss a text message exchange between the executive and Chicago mayor Lori Lightfoot over the gunshot death of two children.

Last week, Kempczinski repeatedly apologized for his comments after the texts were made public.

In a message to U.S. employees on Tuesday, obtained by CNBC, Kempczinski said he texted Lightfoot thanking the mayor for visiting the company’s headquarters in April. The visit took place the day after Jaslyn Adams, 7, was shot dead while sitting in a drive-thru at a McDonald’s. It happened shortly after 13-year-old Adam Toledo was killed by a Chicago police officer in March. In the exchange, Kempczinski said that “the parents have let down these children”. The texts have been made public by activists and have been the subject of numerous reports over the past week, sparking backlash and protests at McDonald’s headquarters.

“Not taking the time to think about it from their perspective was a mistake and lacked the empathy and compassion I feel for these families. It’s a lesson I will carry with me,” Kempczinski said. in Tuesday’s post.

On Friday, Kempczinski announced plans to hold a conversation with employees on Monday, and added, “As I shared in my note earlier this week, my texts to the mayor of Chicago were bogus – outright. really sorry and I know I let you down. I also know that this conflicted with our values ​​- values ​​that you have all worked so hard to embody throughout the company. “

Kempczinski said he holds himself accountable for the job he needs to do and hopes to win back the trust of the company and the communities it serves.

Kempczinski also recorded a video message to the U.S. McDonald’s system on Saturday, which included his thoughts on the week. In it, he again apologized. “I’m sorry I let you down. And I let myself down,” he said.

He also said he had a “very narrow worldview” through his own background and that his comments revealed his ignorance. A person familiar with the video broadcast said the message was sent to employees, franchisees and suppliers.

A source within franchise management said some restaurant owners don’t believe in excuses and have broader concerns about the impact of the situation on employee morale during a tough time in the workforce. McDonald’s franchise owners and staff have clashed over the past year over operational issues.

McDonald’s declined to comment. However, someone familiar with Kempczinski’s plans said he held a number of small listening sessions, including with elected franchisee executives, where he apologized.

In an open letter to Kempczinski last week, a coalition of activists from Color of Change, One Fair Wage and Show Up for Racial Justice, among others, criticized the CEO’s post, saying in part: “Your text was ignorant, racist and unacceptable. coming from anyone, not to mention the CEO of McDonald’s, a company that spends a lot of money marketing communities of color and claims to be alongside Black Lives. “

Kempczinski has been CEO for almost two years, holding the job as the company fired former CEO Steve Easterbrook for breaking its code of conduct. McDonald’s faces several lawsuits from former executives and former and current franchisees alleging racial discrimination.

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