McDonald’s CEO Chris Kempczinski is facing backlash over a thread of text messages sent to mayor of Chicago Lori Lightfoot, where he criticized the parents of 7-year-old Jaslyn Adams and 13-year-old Adam Toledo in the children’s deaths.
Toledo was shot and killed by a police officer on March 29, and Adams died on April 18, after he and her father were shot in the drive-thru of a McDonald’s in Chicago.
According to WBEZ, Lightfoot met with Kempczinski at the McDonald’s headquarters on April 19 to discuss the shootings of Adams and Toledo. Kempczinski said he felt the children’s parents “failed” them in a message he wrote to Lightfoot later that day.
“p.s. tragic shootings in 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 said.
The messages were obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request, WBEZ reports.
According to the Insider, Kempczinski found out about the public release of his text conversation with Mayor Lightfoot, and here’s some of what he wrote in a letter:
“In the text exchange, I thanked Mayor Lightfoot for the visit and reflected on our conversation about the recent tragedies, commenting that “the parents failed those kids.” When I wrote this, I was thinking through my lens as a parent and reacted viscerally. 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.
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.”
According to WBEZ, Kempczinski wrote the letter in response to statements made by several community groups, local activists, and McDonald’s employees noting the fast-food restaurant CEO’s racist comments.
“He doesn’t know the circumstances of these parents,” said Adrianna Sanchez, who works at a McDonald’s on the Southside of Chicago. “A large number of them are single mothers who are just doing their best and sacrifice.”
“He is putting the blame on parents for the violence in the streets,” she added. “He can’t relate because he is wealthy, and we are not, and he doesn’t understand our struggle.”
Since Kempczinski’s messages with Lightfoot were released publicly, some of the city’s employees along with activist groups in Chicago planned to meet at the McDonald’s headquarters to present a letter to the company’s CEO, the Insider reports.
“It’s clear to us you’re the one who has failed here,” said the letter. “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.”