The CEO of VisuWell, a Nashville-based tele-health company, was sacked after a viral video showed him harassing a teenaged boy for wearing a prom dress.
A TikTok video that showed the 46-year-old man following the young boy and harassing and hurling insults at him, went viral. Social media users soon identified the man as Sam Johnson, CEO of VisuWell.
On Monday, following a backlash, the company condemned the incident and announced that Jhonson had been sacked.
“We unequivocally condemn the behavior exhibited by Sam Johnson in a recent video widely circulated on social media,” the company said.
Post 2/4: After investigating the matter and speaking to individuals involved, the VisuWell BOD 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 (@VisuWell) April 26, 2021
“After investigating the matter and speaking to individuals involved, the VisuWell BOD has chosen to terminate Mr. Johnson from his position as CEO, effective immediately… Mr. Johnson’s actions contradicted the high standards we set for ourselves in promoting the health of those who use our platform,” the company said.
Young Teen Couple Was Celebrating Prom
The young boy wearing a floor-length red gown and a mask in the viral TikTok video was high school senior Dalton Stevens, who was out celebrating prom with his boyfriend Jacob Giettmann at a hotel in Tennessee. It was Giettmann who recorded the video.
Homophobic POS in Tennessee harasses a teenager for wearing a dress to prom pic.twitter.com/Ftt2a184jX
— Fifty Shades of Whey (@davenewworld_2) April 26, 2021
The video starts off with a smiling Johnson following the young boy who asks the grown man to stay away: “I choose what I wanna wear so you can f*** off.”
Johnson responds: “Is that right?”
Stevens then tries to walk away, but a smiling Johnson follows the young boy, stands near him and says: “You look like an idiot.”
“F*** off…Get the f*** away from me,” says Stevens sounding distressed by the homophobic badgering. Johnson then appears to swing at the phone and reportedly hits Steven.
At this point one can hear others, pleading with a smiling Johnson to stop, saying: “It’s just prom. It’s kids, it’s a bunch of kids. Come on, dude.”
The video ends with Stevens saying “I’m sorry, I’m gorgeous,” and Johnson retorts: “Are you?”.
Kathy Griffin Makes CEO ‘Online Famous’
Among those who came out in support of the teeagers was actress Kathy Griffin. “It seems like he’s dying to be online famous,” posted Griffin.
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
Griffin in another Twitter post questioned VisuWell asking them if they had removed Johnson from the Board of Directors as well.
Has Sam Johnson has been removed from his position on the Board of Directors and, if not, what measures is Visuwell taking in this regard?
Leaving Johnson on the Board raises an eyebrow that the company intends to rehire. Know the nation will remain vigilant. (Per @NastyProud) https://t.co/S8DKBZstVw
— Kathy Griffin (@kathygriffin) April 27, 2021
‘He Looked Gorgeous’
TikTok took down the original video but by then it had been reposted by others including on social media platforms like Twitter. In a subsequent video, Giettmann explained the chain of events.
Giettmann said he was in college and his boyfriend Stevens was a senior in high school. Stevens had decided to wear a dress for his senior prom “to break the stigma around men wearing dresses”.
“He looked gorgeous, everybody loved it and nobody had a problem with it,” said Giettmann. The couple then went to a hotel close to where they lived to take some photos. They were there for about an hour and were about to leave when Johnson came up to them and started harassing them and insulting Stevens with “homophobic banter”.
According to Giettmann, Johnson questioned Stevens about his choice of dress asking: “Why are you wearing that? You shouldn’t be wearing that.” When Stevens responded saying “because I can and I want to,” Johnson said: “You look disgusting, you look ridiculous, you look like an idiot. Men shouldn’t be wearing this.”
Giettmann said that Johnson smacked his phone twice, once it fell to the floor and the second time is when it was captured in the now viral video.
Giettmann said that the other moms who were at the venue came to their rescue asking Jhonson to stop. The hotel staff then asked Johnson to move the bar area. Giettmann said that the hotel staff had told him they were kicking Johnson out and had called the police.
Johnson denied the allegations, instead blaming the boys for “obnoxious, loud behaviour”.
If you feel distressed reading the story, you can reach out to support services.
For 24 hour crisis support and suicide prevention call Lifeline on 13 11 14
For Australia-wide LGBTQI peer support call QLife on 1800 184 527 or webchat.