Chris Kempczinski

Protesters Blast McDonald's CEO Over Texts Sent to Lightfoot After Adams, Toledo Shooting Deaths

NBC Universal, Inc.

The CEO of Chicago-based McDonald’s is under fire after text messages, which he sent to Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, were published in which he said that the parents of 7-year-old Jaslyn Adams and 13-year-old Adam Toledo “failed those kids” prior to their deaths earlier this year.

The comments were made in the wake of the shooting deaths of Adams, who died while sitting in a car with her father in a McDonald’s drive-thru, and Toledo, who was shot and killed by a Chicago police officer in an incident that sparked national outrage.

McDonald’s CEO Chris Kempczinski sent the message just one day after Adams was killed.

“Tragic shootings last week, both at our restaurant yesterday and with Adam Toledo,” he said in the April 19 message. “Both the parents failed those kids, which I know is something you can’t say. Even harder to fix.”

The messages were obtained through a public records request made by a Chicago activist, according to the Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Oppression. The messages were then posted to social media, just one day after Lightfoot had visited the company’s headquarters.

On Wednesday, the group formed a coalition of workers, children and activists to march on the company’s Chicago headquarters, slamming the CEO’s remarks.

In a press release, the group demanded a meeting with Kempczinski within seven days to address their concerns after the release of the messages.

Adams’ family also reacted strongly to the published comments.  

“He’s entitled to his opinion,” Lawanda McMullen, Adams’ grandmother, said. “He apologized, but was it sincere? I don’t know, but I know she had great parents.”

Delivering that apology, Kempczinski penned a letter to employees Wednesday explaining the messages, saying that he had “reacted viscerally” to the shooting deaths of Adams and Toledo.

“In the text exchange, I thanked Mayor Lightfoot for the visit and reflected on our conversation about the recent tragedies, commenting that ‘the parents failed those kids,’” he said in the letter. “When I wrote this, I was thinking through my lens as a parent and reacted viscerally. But 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.”

Lightfoot responded to the text by calling the shootings a “terrible tragedy.” Her office released a statement following the publication of the message exchange.

“As the mayor has said previously, families do everything they can – moms, dads, grandparents – to love and support their children, and tragedies can still happen,” a spokesperson said. “Victim shaming has no place in this conversation.”

In his letter to employees, the McDonald’s CEO went on to say that gun violence is a serious concern for Chicago, and that “everyone has a role to play” in the pursuit of solutions to that problem, including the company and its employees.

“I am committed to working with civic leaders and elected officials to understand what that means for McDonald’s, and I will be asking all of you to join me in this pursuit,” he said.

Still, those promises aren’t enough for activists, who want to see more action on behalf of the company to address the gun violence that is plaguing the city that it calls home.

“If he does not resign, I expect him to come to Little Village, to come to North Lawndale, to come to Englewood, to come to everywhere in Chicago where there is a McDonald’s making money off of people who are currently disenfranchised,” Graciela Garcia of the Little Village Community Council said.

Contact Us