Rep. Rush calls for removal of McDonald’s CEO after comment about slain Chicago kids

Bobby Rush joins theGrio owner Byron Allen and others who expressed anger after Chris Kempczinski appeared to blame the deaths of two children on their parents.

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Longtime Illinois U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush is joining a rising chorus of calls for the CEO of the McDonald’s Corporation to step down. 

Chris Kempczinski exchanged text messages with Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot in which, according to reports, he appeared to blame the March 29 shooting deaths of two Chicago children — one Black, the other Latino — on the youngsters themselves and their parents. 

Illinois Rep. Bobby Rush listens during July testimony at a House Energy and Commerce Committee and Subcommittee on Energy hearing in the Rayburn Building titled “Oversight of DOE During the COVID-19 Pandemic.” (Photo: Michael A. McCoy/Getty Images)

In a text to the mayor, Kempczinski called the deaths of 7-year-old Jaslyn Adams and 13-year-old Adam Toledo “tragic,” NPR reported. He added in his texts to Lightfoot “the parents failed those kids which I know is something you can’t say. Even harder to fix.”

Adams was shot and killed while waiting at a McDonald’s restaurant with her father on the same spring day Toledo was shot and killed by Chicago Police officer Eric Stillman in its early morning hours. Reports indicate Toledo had been carrying a gun and had dropped it when he turned to face Stillman, who had cornered him in an empty alleyway.

Kempczinski’s text messages with Mayor Lightfoot were about coordinating a conversation with the owner-operator of the franchise where Adams’ shooting took place, according to WBEZ Chicago

Rush issued a statement calling for Kempczinski’s resignation, describing his texts as “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.” 

He added that the company has “a long history of racist behavior and discrimination, which ongoing legal action continues to reveal” and asserted “the Black community deserves and demands far better responses and far better treatment from McDonald’s and its top leaders.”

Kempczinski’s offensive statements also caught the attention of media mogul Byron Allen, owner of theGrio, who took out full-page ads in The Detroit Free Press and The Chicago Tribune, where he too called for his resignation

Byron Allen
Byron Allen attends the Hollywood Walk of Fame Star Ceremony for Byron Allen on October 20, 2021 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Emma McIntyre/Getty Images)

In his letter, Allen demands McDonald’s to end its racial discrimination and writes that, despite public pressure to do so, racist behavior continues to persist at the company. He went on to list several headlines from major news media — including Chicago TribuneUSA Today and ABC News — about claims of racism at McDonald’s, including a recent report about protesters condemning Kempczinski’s text messages.

“McDonald’s horrible, racist culture is indefensible and unacceptable. The headlines below and many others prove that you are not doing your jobs and you continue to perpetuate and  support racism,” reads Byron Allen’s open letter.

Allen sued McDonald’s in April of this year, citing racial discrimination because the company refuses to advertise with the networks he owns.

Mary Kay Henry, president of the Service Employees International Union, agreed with Allen. She issued a statement of support, saying, “Byron Allen is 100% right in his statements about McDonald’s unacceptable toxic, racist culture. Workers in the Fight for $15 and a Union have been sounding the alarm about systemic racism at McDonald’s for years, and SEIU has supported their efforts to hold the company accountable every step of the way.” 

“I join the call on McDonald’s board of directors to remove the President and CEO, Chris Kempczinski, immediately,” she said, “as one step in the many needed to address the systemic racism workers have decried for years.” 

“McDonald’s, if you truly care about children, like Adam and Jaslyn, and have respect for their parents, it’s time you stop paying lip service,” April Verrett, president of SEIU Local 2015 exclusively told theGrio.

“You need to start paying families sustainable wages and allow workers to form unions. If you really want to stand with Black and Brown communities, prove it. Not with words or slogans, but by taking action to lift up your workers and our communities. I join the calls for McDonald’s Board of Directors to fire CEO Chris Kempczinski as the first in many steps needed to address the systemic racism that workers have been calling out for years.”

Kempczinski’s text messages came to light after a local activist filed a public information request.

Jaslyn Adams’ mother, Lanesha Walker, reacted to the McDonald’s executive’s text message, as reported by The Chicago Sun-Times.

“I am a grieving parent,” said Walker. “I’ve been grieving for the longest, and from your place of power, you insult me. How dare you judge me! How dare you say I failed my child! I wasn’t there when my child was killed. I didn’t know she was at your McDonald’s with her father at that moment in time. You owe me an apology.” 

Kempczinski did issue an apology in an open letter to upset employees, in which he wrote, “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. 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.” 

The CEO reportedly held a town hall with McDonald’s staff on Monday; no details from that event have been disclosed. 

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