“You look like an idiot.”
A Tennessee CEO has been fired after video of him appearing to harass a boy wearing a prom dress was posted online.
Student Dalton Stevens, 18, said he decided to wear the stunning red gown to his senior prom with boyfriend Jacob Geitmann, to show that clothing is genderless.
But not everyone present agreed with him, it seems; according to the couple, they were taking photos at a hotel when they were approached by a man who began throwing homophobic insults.
The teen told NBC that among the insults, the man — later identified as VisuWell CEO Sam Johnson — told him “hair on your chest, you shouldn’t be wearing a dress.”
Video shot by Geitmann picks up halfway through the confrontation, with Stevens telling the smirking Johnson: “I chose what I want to wear, so you can f— off.”
But Johnson doesn’t, instead following him around the courtyard, passing more comment.
“You think he looks gross?” his boyfriend challenges.
“He does,” Johnson replies, telling Stevens: “You look like an idiot.”
“It’s a bunch of kids,” one bystander trying to intervene tells him, while another insists “Come on, it’s a special night.”
“I’m sorry, I’m gorgeous,” Stevens defiantly tells him.
“Are you?” Johnson mocks in reply.
Johnson at one stage even appears to try to smack the phone out of Geitmann’s hand, appearing to inadvertently strike his boyfriend.
In a video posted to TikTok afterwards, Geitmann claimed Johnson started the confrontation by walking within an inch of Stevens and asking: “What are you wearing? Why are you wearing that? You shouldn’t be wearing that.”
He claims he tried to film from earlier, but Johnson smacked the phone out of his hand, before telling his boyfriend: “You look disgusting, you look ridiculous, you look like an idiot, men shouldn’t be wearing it — all of this homophobic banter.”
But speaking to Newsweek, Johnson said the allegations were “entirely false”, and claimed the confrontation “wasn’t anything personal or involving a dress,” but rather “about obnoxious, loud behavior by this group of teens.”
“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,” he said, adding that he asked them to “tone down the vulgarities around the families and children who were present” — including his own.
“Making it about the dress was their idea and they edited out most of the exchange,” he said.
“I have no ill will towards anyone or their personal choices, so long as it does not harm me or my family.”
Nevertheless, as the video spread on social media, it soon caught the attention of the telemedicine company where Johnson served as Chief Executive.
“We unequivocally condemn the behavior exhibited by Sam Johnson in a recent video widely circulated on social media,” it wrote in a statement on Twitter. “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.”
“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.”