CHICAGO (AP) — The CEO of McDonald’s faced increasing criticism and calls for resignation Thursday following text messages he sent to Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot where he seemed to blame the deaths of two Black and Latino children killed in gun violence on their parents.
McDonald’s President and CEO Chris Kempczinski sent texts to Lightfoot in April after meeting with her and referred to shootings that killed two children earlier this year: 7-year-old Jaslyn Adams, a Black girl who was shot in a McDonald’s drive-thru lane and 13-year-old Adam Toledo, a Latino boy who was shot by Chicago police.
“With both, the parents failed those kids which I know is something you can’t say. Even harder to fix,” Kempczinski wrote.
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 organizations 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. And U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush of Illinois called this week for Kempczinski to be removed.
“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 color and publicly proclaims that ‘Black lives matter’ — to espouse,” the Chicago Democrat said in a statement Wednesday.
A coalition of community groups amplified their demand for Kempczinski to resign Thursday 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 fund over four years to improve life in Chicago, among other things. The group included immigrant rights activists, labor groups and churches.
Earlier this month, Kempczinski sent a note to McDonald’s corporate employees in the U.S., 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 to reporters. A message left Thursday for a spokesperson by the Associated Press was not immediately returned.