The Tennessee CEO of a telehealth technology firm was fired after he was captured on video harassing a teen who was wearing a dress for prom. According to a reports in The Daily Mail and elsewhere, Sam Johnson, 46, was fired from his position at VisuWell after video of his exchange with Dalton Stevens, 18, at the Harpeth Hotel lin Franklin ast Saturday went viral with the help of Kathy Griffin.
The video was recorded by Steven's boyfriend, Jacob Geittman, and shows Johnson following and hurling homophobic insults at a clearly distraught Stevens. Johnson later denied the allegations despite the video, claiming the teens had been using foul and vulgar language around families and children, and that the video was edited.
The confrontation was underway when Geittman started recording.
"You look like an idiot," Johnson can be heard saying.
When Stevens says he is "gorgeous," Johnson mockingly responds "are you?"
Johnson then attempts to knock the phone from Geittman's hand, apparently hitting Stevens in the arm.
Geittman told WKRN his boyfriend Stevens wore the floor-length red dress because it was a very special occasion for the couple.
"He did his big 'prom-posal' and asked me to prom," Geittman explained. "And he decided he was going to wear a dress, and I'm like okay! You're going to look good in it!"
"I was very confident," Stevens said. "I knew that I felt beautiful, and I felt great."
Geittman posted the video to TikTok, and it gained a big boost when it was tweeted by Kathy Griffin who also identified Johnson, his wife, and his now-former job.
Not long after the video went viral, VisuWell released a statement saying they had fired Johnson.
"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."
The statement went on to note the culture at VisuWell "emphasized 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."
Geittman later posted a video to TikTok saying that Johnson had started the confrontation, approaching the pair and insulting them with homophobic slurs.
"This man comes up and he's about an inch away from my boyfriend and he says 'What are you wearing?'" Geittman was quoted. "And he's like, 'A dress, why?' And he's like 'Why are you wearing that? You shouldn't be wearing that.'"
Geittmann said Johnson, who appeared inebriated, continued to mock Stevens saying he looked "disgusting" and "ridiculous" and that "men shouldn't be wearing this."
Stevens confirmed Geittman's claims to NBC News, saying Johnson approached their prom group and immediately singled him out, asking why he was wearing a dress.
"I think I look good in it and that I really like the dress, and I want to show that clothing is genderless," Stevens said he told Johnson. "And I explained that to him, and he continued to just call me names and just follow me."
Johnson told Newsweek he was only trying to curb the group's alleged foul language.
"We had just sat down for dinner at this restaurant that we frequent, and I was returning from the restroom when I was presented with their loud cursing," Johnson claimed. "Making it about the dress was their idea, and they edited out most of the exchange."
Stevens remembered things differently.
"We never had any type of vulgar language until this gentleman approached and started harassing us," he said.
Stevens's mother, Dia Morgan, told NBC News her son was shaken up the next day when they spoke. She said she spoke to him about the language he allegedly used in the confrontation, but described her son as having "every bit of courage" for standing up for himself.
"If you let people like this guy continue to do this, then that's how you beat people's spirits," Morgan said. "I mean, I'm incredibly proud of my son."
Despite her pride in her son, she was still distraught that the encounter took place at all.
"It's heartbreaking for a mother," Morgan lamented.
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