McDonald’s President and CEO Chris Kempczinski is facing backlash after the release of text messages to Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot seemingly saying that the gun violence deaths of two Black and Latino children were the parents’ fault, the Associated Press reported.
The texts, which were sent in April, refer to the killings of 7-year-old Jaslyn Adams, a Black girl who was shot in a McDonald’s drive-thru, 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,” Kempczinski wrote to Lightfoot. “Even harder to fix.”
AP reported that the exchange was made public on social media in late October as a result of a Freedom of Information Act request from activist Michael Kessler.
Many Chicago groups have been protesting Kempczinski’s statement, calling it racist and insensitive. Jaslyn Adams’ mother has demanded an apology. AP reported that a coalition of community groups are calling for him to resign, protesting at the McDonald’s where Adams was killed.
“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,” U.S. Representative Bobby Rush of Illinois said in a statement Wednesday.
Kessler, an American activist living in Canada, said he was looking into an Oregon police matter and working with Chicago-based transparency group Lucy Parsons Lab when he came across the text exchange.
The community 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.”