A telehealth company fired their CEO for criticizing a male teen in a prom dress on video – but he says the teens asked for his opinion. Previous VisuWell CEO Sam Johnson explained to The Tennessee Star the whole context of the viral interaction, posted originally on the popular social media platform, TikTok, by the dress-wearing teen’s boyfriend, Jacob Geittmann. According to Johnson, he’d approached the group teens initially because they were yelling, being “obnoxious” and “vulgar” in a public area where children and some of his family were present – not because the male teen, Dalton Stevens, was wearing a dress.
In an interview with The Star, Johnson explained that he’d politely requested that the teens, as a group, could “tone it down.” According to Johnson, there were around five chaperones present that didn’t corral the group of just over one dozen teenage prom-goers.
“There were kids being pulled out of the areas that they were invading because of the foul language that was coming out of their mouths,” explained Johnson. “[The chaperones] were allowing the kids, in their words, ‘to have their fun.’ We as the customers didn’t think it was all that fun. We thought it was obnoxious.”
Johnson told The Star that he’d been at the restaurant less than half an hour when the interaction began. Although Geittmann’s accusations that Johnson was “drunk” and “thrown out of the restaurant” were published in multiple mainstream media outlets, Johnson said that neither of those things were true. He told The Star that he wasn’t intoxicated, and left the restaurant voluntarily.
It was only when Johnson asked the teens to stop their behavior that the issue of the dress came up. Prior to when the recording began, Johnson explained that the teens “commented with vulgar comments” to elicit a response. When that failed, he said, the teens asked him directly what he thought of Stevens’s dress.
“They engaged me and made it about the dress,” stated Johnson. “They kept pressing me to say how I thought that he looked.”
That’s when the video captured Johnson responding to the teens. He said he thought that Stevens looked like “an idiot.”
Various reports also accused Johnson of following the teen. Johnson said that he was merely attempting to reenter the restaurant he’d been in before the interaction. He said that Geittmann and the group of teens followed him.
Johnson also revealed to The Star that he apologized to Stevens for calling him “an idiot” on Monday via a private Twitter message. As of our interview on Wednesday, Johnson hadn’t received a response from Stevens.
“I want the community to know that I’m going to stay involved with the community, stay supportive of families, of decency, and I don’t intend to be anyone different tomorrow than I am today,” stated Johnson.
According to Johnson, he is looking into legal action against several major media outlets and public figures for publishing false statements without his comment.
Johnson was also interviewed by Newsmax to share his side of the story.
“Here’s my side of the story, that is if you care to listen,” wrote Johnson. “I suspect about half of you will refuse to watch it, and remain ignorant to the facts.”
Here’s my side of the story, that is if you care to listen. I suspect about half of you will refuse to watch it, and remain ignorant to the facts.https://t.co/VC4QzR84rU
— Sam Johnson (@SJohnsonTN) April 28, 2021
The continued backlash over his remarks didn’t cause Johnson to backtrack. He doubled down on his choice to approach the teens.
“I see a lot of ‘adults should mind their own business’ tweets out there,” wrote Johnson. “Truthfully, that’s been at the core of our kid/teen problems, for a while now, in the USA. #consequences[.]”
I see a lot of “adults should mind their own business” tweets out there. Truthfully, that’s been at the core of our kid/teen problems, for a while now, in the USA. #consequences
— Sam Johnson (@SJohnsonTN) April 28, 2021
The video went viral, in part due to celebrity engagement online. LGBTQ activist celebrity Kathy Griffin shared the video and attempted to dox Johnson on Twitter, apparently referencing his residential city and wife’s name.
If this is Sam Johnson in Nashville, Tennessee, the CEO of @VisuWell, healthcare-tech-growth strategist, married to Jill Johnson where they may reside in Franklin, Tennessee, it seems like he’s dying to be online famous. 🤷♀️🏳️🌈🤷♀️ https://t.co/GPYOYBQywv
— Kathy Griffin (@kathygriffin) April 26, 2021
The interaction occurred on a Saturday – not on company time, as confirmed by Johnson. At the time of press, VisuWell’s only page on their website is dedicated to a rebuke of Johnson and news of his firing.
We unequivocally condemn the behavior exhibited by Sam Johnson in a recent video widely circulated on social media. After investigating the matter and speaking to individuals involved, the VisuWell Board of Directors has chosen to terminate Mr. Johnson from his position as CEO, effective immediately. Gerry Andrady, our President and COO, will lead the company through this important time.
VisuWell’s culture emphasizes respect, kindness, and compassion, especially for those from traditionally marginalized communities, and we maintain a zero-tolerance policy for intolerance of any kind. Mr. Johnson’s actions contradicted the high standards we set for ourselves in promoting the health of those who use our platform.
We share the concerns that so many have expressed on this matter and look forward to announcing concrete steps we are taking in support of the LGBTQ community in particular over the coming weeks.
VisuWell also clarified that Johnson was no longer a part of their board of directors or serving any advisory roles.
According to the teen’s boyfriend who recorded the interaction, Jacob Geittmann, TikTok twice removed the video for bullying and harassment. However, Geittmann had a peer post the original video to her TikTok page. The video, which shows part of the interaction, is available below:
had to re-upload the video, but story time on @jacobgeittmann2 page 🙂
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