McDonald's CEO Apologizes After Parenting Comments

After two children were shot, Chris Kempczinski said their parents failed them
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 3, 2021 1:05 AM CDT
Updated Nov 8, 2021 12:42 PM CST
McDonald's CEO Blames Parents of Kids Who Were Killed
McDonald's CEO Chris Kempczinski at McDonald's headquarters on Wednesday, May 5, 2021 in the West Loop of Chicago.   (Jean Marc-Giboux/AP Images for McDonald's)

Update: He's sorry. The CEO of McDonald's is apologizing for comments in which he blamed bad parenting after two children were fatally shot in Chicago. The comments were "wrong—pure and simple," wrote Chris Kempczinski in an email to staff, per the Wall Street Journal. "I am learning from this," he added. "I believe that starts with more listening and learning from more people whose life experiences are different from my own." Our original story from Nov. 2 follows. (Note: the reader opinion poll reflects that original story):

McDonald's CEO Chris Kempczinski made some ill-advised comments about two children who were fatally shot in Chicago earlier this year, and now local activists and McDonald's workers are planning a protest. In an April 19 text message to Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot after she visited McDonald's headquarters that day, Kempczinski wrote, "tragic shootings in last week, both at our restaurant yesterday and with Adam Toldeo [sic]. With both, the parents failed those kids which I know is something you can’t say. Even harder to fix." The first incident he was referring to was the April 18 death of Jaslyn Adams, 7, who was shot and killed as she sat in her father's car at a McDonald's drive-through in what is believed to have been a gang-related incident.

The second was the death of Adam Toledo, the 13-year-old killed by police during a late-night foot chase in March. The text exchange with Lightfoot was uncovered by an activist who filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the city of Chicago, WBEZ reports. Lightfoot did not push back in her response, simply offering offer support to workers at the restaurant where Adams was killed, the Chicago Tribune reports. Critics of Kempczinski's take pointed out he has no idea what struggling parents, sometimes single moms, go through to raise their kids, and is unfairly blaming them for street violence. This is particularly upsetting coming from the CEO of McDonald's, one worker says, because the fast food giant doesn't treat employees well: "Oftentimes we have to work two jobs because the wages are so low; we’re forced to sometimes leave our kids at home alone to go to work," she says.

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She's among the workers and activists planning to protest at McDonald's headquarters Wednesday. In an open letter they're planning to send him the same day, his comments are decried as racist—and "unacceptable coming from anyone, let alone the CEO of McDonald’s, a company that spends big to market to communities of color and purports to stand with Black lives.” Says the president of the Little Village Community Council, "If he really feels that it’s the mothers’ fault, of them being the culprits of their kids’ deaths, then he should fund our communities with all the profits that he takes." The organizers are calling on Kempczinski to come up with a plan to address systemic racism at his company. In a statement, Kempczinski apologized and promised he had learned a lesson. Lightfoot's rep also issued a statement criticizing Kempczinski's "victim shaming." (More McDonald's stories.)

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