Live

Watch CBS News

McDonald's CEO Chris Kempczinski faces mounting backlash over gun victim texts

Girl shot and killed in Chicago drive-thru
Girl shot and killed in Chicago drive-thru 01:46

The chief executive of McDonald's is facing mounting criticism and calls for resignation following the release of text messages he sent to Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot in which he seemed to blame the deaths of two Black and Latino children killed in gun violence on their parents.

McDonald's CEO Chris Kempczinski sent texts to Lightfoot in April after meeting with her and referred to shootings that killed two children earlier this year: 7-year-old Jaslyn Adams, a Black girl who was shot in a McDonald's drive-thru lane, 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. Even harder to fix," Kempczinski wrote.

The exchange was made public on social media late last month following a Freedom of Information Act request from Michael Kessler, an American activist living in Canada, who said he was looking into an Oregon police matter and working with Chicago-based transparency group Lucy Parsons Lab.

Video released in police shooting of boy 04:56

A coalition of community groups, including immigrant rights activists, labor organizations and churches, amplified their demand for Kempczinski to resign Thursday by protesting outside the McDonald's where Jaslyn Adams was killed. The coalition, which called attention to other racial discrimination complaints the Chicago-headquartered company has faced, called on the fast-food giant to create a $200 million fund over four years to improve life in its corporate hometown, among other things. 

Chicago organizations have been protesting for days, saying the messages were racist, ignorant and out-of-touch. Jaslyn Adams' mother has demanded an apology from the CEO, who is White. And U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush of Illinois called this week for Kempczinski to be removed.

"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," the Chicago Democrat said in a statement Wednesday.

"Those comments were wrong"

In a video sent last weekend to McDonald's employees, suppliers and franchisees, Kempczinski expressed regret for the text messages. 

"Those comments were wrong, and I am sorry. I am sorry I let you down. And I let myself down," he said, a source familiar with Kempczinski's video statement told CBS MoneyWatch. "Part of what I feel so badly about is that my comments have compounded the grief that Adam Toledo's family and Jaslyn Adams' family have already experienced. And I have reached out to those families, and I hope to have the opportunity to sit down with them in person and apologize." 

Kempczinski has also met with McDonald's workers and franchisees in recent days to discuss his comments and solicit their feedback, according to the source. 

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.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.