After a video of a middle-aged man harassing a teen who decided to wear a dress to prom went viral, the man, identified as VisuWell CEO Sam Johnson, has been fired.
The video was filmed Saturday in Franklin, Tenn., when a man started harassing high school senior Dalton Stevens, who was dressed in a beautiful red gown for his senior prom, according to Nashville TV station WKRN. The video was filmed by his boyfriend, Jacob Geittman.
In the video, Stevens can be seen taking prom photos with Geittman when Johnson approaches them and starts harassing them in public. The man is smirking at the two teens and cornering them against a wall while parent chaperones beg him to stop. "You look like an idiot," Johnson can be seen saying. He also appears to try to slap the phone out of Geittman's hand.
\u201cHomophobic POS in Tennessee harasses a teenager for wearing a dress to prom\u201d
— Fifty Shades of Whey (@Fifty Shades of Whey)
Celebrities like Billy Porter and Kathy Griffin offered their support for Stevens, who says he wanted to make a statement his senior year. "I very much view clothes as genderless," Stevens told WKRN. "I was very confident, I knew that I felt beautiful, and I felt great," he added.
Johnson denied any wrongdoing to Newsweek, saying the allegations were "entirely false" despite being filmed, and that the incident "wasn't anything personal or involving a dress" but was "about obnoxious, loud behavior by this group of teens." He said the teens were loudly cursing, and the confrontation came after he asked them to tone it down. "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."
Now, Johnson has been fired from his position at VisuWell, a telemedicine company, according to a statement the company issued on Twitter. "We unequivocally condemn the behavior exhibited by Sam Johnson in a recent video widely circulated on social media," the statement reads. "After investigating the matter and speaking to individuals involved, the VisuWell Board of Directors has chose 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-tolerence policy for intolerance of any kind," the statement continues. "Mr. Johnson's actions contradicted the high standards we set for ourselves in promoting the health of those who use our platform." The company also said it would be looking for "concrete steps" they can take to support the LGBTQ+ community over the coming weeks.