Ex-Papa John’s CEO Backs Fired St. Louis Worker in Discrimination Suit

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  • A St. John’s Papa John’s is at the center of a racism lawsuit.

An already bizarre story of how a black employee of a St. John’s Papa Johns was fired after recording his boss’s racial abuse has gotten decidedly stranger after the embarrassed former pizza chain CEO John Schnatter threw himself into the mix Has.

The billionaire appeared during a KMOV segment on Wednesday and reportedly focused on George Mitchell, a 35-year-old Papa John’s employee who was laid off last year after complaining about his shift supervisor’s disturbing comments on race and women .

As a delivery driver and cook, Mitchell had started taking pictures of his manager Joshua Bruce, who is white. Some of these clips were aired on a February 6 story on KMOV, including a recording Bruce apparently caught in the middle of the tirade about his disgust for interracial relationships, especially for white women who have children with black men.

Mitchell eventually lost his job after complaining to the business owners about his boss and soon afterwards filed a discrimination lawsuit naming Bruce and Papa John’s. However, this week the suit earned him an unlikely ally in Schnatter, who stepped down from Papa Johns in 2018 after it was revealed he used the n-word during a “diversity training” call.

Now, in the midst of an attempted comeback, Schnatter has been made aware of Mitchell’s plight in stories from KMOV and the St. Louis Post Dispatch.

“The tape is terrible, it’s terrible and for anyone who has to go through this it’s just bad,” Schnatter told KMOV this week.

Indeed, the footage Mitchell took before his release appears to show Bruce winding his way through clearly white, supremacist topics of conversation.

“So you don’t just fuck our daughters, you hit them in the ass and leave them with a child seven out of ten times,” Bruce says in a recording. In another he complains: “There is no white man in the world who comes along and meets a white girl. As soon as he sees this mixed child, he falls out.” The recordings also included Bruce, who allegedly said, “White people created western civilization,” a statement very similar to the arguments of the Proud Boys and white nationalists.

However, during the KMOV follow-up that aired Wednesday that included Schnatter, the story took an odd turn as it attempted to relate the ex-CEO’s personal story to racist controversy and the circumstances of the 2018 appeal in which he the n-said to put in context. Word.

KMOV reporter Ashli ​​Lincoln asked Schnatter, “Have you ever used the n-word in this audio?”

“No,” answered Schnatter. “I said Colonel Sanders calls black people that. I would never use that word.”

There are some notable problems with Schnatter’s answer, however. First, it contradicts his own apology in 2018 when he acknowledged the incident to the Washington Post, saying, “News reports attributing to me the use of inappropriate and hurtful language during a media training session regarding race are true.”

KMOV did not hold back Schnatter’s response, and in an even more significant mistake, Lincoln’s voice-over continued: “Last December, the FBI exonerated Schnatter and said his comments were not intended as a racial insult to anyone” – something that did not happen .

Instead, the alleged “discharge report” was prepared by former FBI director Louis Freeh, who had been hired by Schnatter’s lawyers to “evaluate” the 2018 call and determine whether Schnatter’s statements in the press had been misinterpreted.

KMOV’s story seemed to misunderstand the origin of the report, even when Schnatter addressed it directly: The online version of the story quoted Schnatter defending his behavior in 2018, saying, “The free report sets me free” – but Schnatter didn’t say “free”. but “Freeh”, that is, the author of the report that his lawyers paid for.

While Freeh’s report claimed that media coverage unfairly projected racist intentions onto Schnatter’s 2018 appeal, it also confirmed that Schnatter had used the racist epithet during diversity training, while discussing his use of the n-word with that of Colonel Sanders compared.

Even so, KMOV’s Lincoln put pressure on his decision to interfere in Mitchell’s case.

“Critics might say, ‘Hey, this is a publicity stunt to erase your name,'” she noted. “What’s your answer to that?”

“There are already many in the public eye,” Schnatter replied, turning to Mitchell. “And if it helps him solve this, we’ll get some promotion.”

For Mitchell, however, the upcoming legal battle against Papa John could be difficult. A 2017 Missouri law severely curtailed the standards for proving discrimination in court, meaning plaintiffs cannot simply argue that race was “a factor” in discrimination, but “the motivating factor”.

As the legal issue continues in court, the notes Mitchell made in support of the lawsuit describe a workplace of increasing toxicity and terror. The lawsuit alleges that Bruce previously attempted to “claim” a recently hired black employee and then asked Mitchell to act as a “wingman” in his attempts to have sex with her.

When those efforts failed, Bruce’s behavior became “more erratic and weird,” the lawsuit said. It was then that Mitchell began taking on his boss – but when he brought his evidence and complaints into corporate ownership of the business in July 2020, they subsequently fired the employee, not the racist boss.

In the interview that aired on the KMOV segment on Wednesday, Mitchell said it was Papa John’s corporate property’s failure to take racism seriously that motivated him to reach out to Schnatter despite the ex-CEO’s story.

Mitchell responded to KMOV’s Lincoln questioning whether critics would say that Schnatter’s involvement is simply part of a PR stunt: “You can say what you want.”

“Honestly,” added Mitchell, “he’s the only one who came when I called.”

Follow Danny Wicentowski on Twitter at @D_Towski. Email the author at [email protected]

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