12 November 2021

McDonald’s CEO facing calls to quit over child gun victim texts

12 November 2021

The CEO of McDonald’s is facing calls to resign after text messages he sent to Chicago mayor Lori Lightfoot seemed to blame the deaths of two black and Latino children killed in gun violence on their parents.

Chris Kempczinski sent texts to Ms Lightfoot in April after meeting with her and referred to shootings that killed two children earlier this year: seven-year-old Jaslyn Adams, a black girl who was shot in a McDonald’s drive-through lane, and 13-year-old Adam Toledo, a Latino boy who was shot by Chicago police.

Mr Kempczinski wrote: “With both, the parents failed those kids which I know is something you can’t say. Even harder to fix.”

This is a deplorable message, and one that is completely unacceptable for the CEO of a powerful multinational corporation - let alone a corporation that markets aggressively to communities of colour and publicly proclaims that 'black lives matter'

The exchange was made public on social media late last month following a Freedom of Information Act request from Michael Kessler, an American activist living in Canada, who said he was looking into an Oregon police matter and working with Chicago-based transparency group Lucy Parsons Lab.

Chicago organisations have been protesting for days, saying the messages were racist, ignorant and out-of-touch.

Jaslyn Adams’ mother has demanded an apology from the CEO, who is white. US representative Bobby Rush of Illinois called this week for Mr Kempczinski to be removed.

The Chicago Democrat said: “This is a deplorable message, and one that is completely unacceptable for the CEO of a powerful multinational corporation – let alone a corporation that markets aggressively to communities of colour and publicly proclaims that ‘black lives matter’ – to espouse.”

Not taking the time to think about this from their viewpoint was wrong, and lacked the empathy and compassion I feel for these families. This is a lesson that I will carry with me

A coalition of community groups amplified their demand for Mr Kempczinski to resign by protesting outside the McDonald’s where Jaslyn Adams was killed.

The coalition, which called attention to other racial discrimination complaints the company has faced, called on the fast-food giant to create a 200 million dollar (£149 million) fund over four years to improve life in Chicago, among other things. The group includes immigrant rights activists, labour groups and churches.

Earlier this month, Mr Kempczinski sent a note to McDonald’s corporate employees in the US, saying he was thinking through his “lens as a parent and reacted viscerally”, according to The Chicago Tribune.

“But I have not walked in the shoes of Adam’s or Jaslyn’s family and so many others who are facing a very different reality,” he said.

“Not taking the time to think about this from their viewpoint was wrong, and lacked the empathy and compassion I feel for these families. This is a lesson that I will carry with me.”

McDonald’s has declined to comment.

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