The CEO of US healthcare company VisuWell has been sacked after he was filmed ridiculing a teenage boy who wore a dress to his prom.
In a now viral recording of the incident, Sam Johnson, 46, told Dalton Stevens, 18, he looked like an “idiot” for sporting a flowing red gown to the end-of-year event.
Stevens’ boyfriend Jacob Geitmann began filming the confrontation after Johnson approached them in the courtyard of a Tennessee hotel.
The footage begins with Stevens telling Johnson: “I chose what I wanna wear so you can f*** off,” to which the 46-year-old replies, smirkingly: “Is that right?”
Geittmann can then be heard asking: “You think he looks gross? He looks disgusting?” as Johnson follows the 18-year-old across the patio.
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The older man then says: “You look like an idiot,” to which a distressed Stevens yells back: “F*** off. Get the f*** away from me.”
Johnson then apparently tries to smack the phone out of Geitmann’s hand, but instead hits Stevens on the back.
“No sir,” Geitmann says calmly. “I can f***ing record you all I want.”
Bystanders then try to diffuse the situation, with one pleading to the smug-looking 46-year-old: “Please, please, stop, it’s a special night,” while another points out: “It’s just a bunch of kids.”
Stevens then says defiantly: “I’m sorry, I’m gorgeous,” to which Johnson replies mockingly: “Are you?”
In a series of TikTok videos posted in the wake of the incident, Geitmann explained the circumstances surrounding the fiery encounter.
He said that his boyfriend had decided to wear a dress to his senior prom to “break the stigma” around men wearing dresses, adding that he “looked gorgeous, everybody loved it” and “nobody had a problem with it”.
The college student then described how Johnson began harassing Stevens with “homophobic banter” just as the couple were about to leave the hotel after taking some prom-night snaps.
"This man comes up, stands about an inch behind my boyfriend and asks, ‘What are you wearing?’ and he’s like, ‘A dress, why?’ And he’s like ‘Well why are you wearing that? You shouldn’t be wearing that,” Geitmann recounted.
After Stevens retorted that “he could and he wanted to and didn’t give a f***” what the older man thought, Johnson began going "on and on, throwing insults at him,” he continued.
Geittmann went on to explain how he began recording the incident but Johnson hit the phone out of his hand, sending it “flying across the concrete”. It was only on the second attempt that he managed to capture the footage which soon send shockwaves across social media.
Once hotel staff intervened, Johnson feigned ignorance and denied accosting the pair, Geittmann continued.
"He pretends like he has absolutely no clue what’s going on, he’s standing there, he’s like, ‘I’ve just been standing here the whole time, I don’t know what’s going on, I didn’t try to talk to them, I didn’t hit them, I didn’t try to smack his phone out of his hand’,’" he explained.
"I’m like, ‘Dude, I have a minute-long video of you harassing us, you can’t just blatantly deny it like that.’"
He then said staff eventually kicked (Johnson) – who was “pretty obviously drunk” – out of the hotel and called the police.
Johnson has since denied that he was harassing the pair, insisting that the video was edited and that he had approached the pair because they were being loud and vulgar, Newsweek reports.
The 46-year-old told the news site that the allegations were "entirely false," claiming the fall-out "wasn’t anything personal or involving a dress," rather "about obnoxious, loud behavior by this group of teens."
He said he had approached the couple to request that they "tone down the vulgarities around the families and children who were present," including his own.
"Making it about the dress was their idea and they edited out most of the exchange," he added.
"I have no ill will towards anyone or their personal choices, so long as it does not harm me or my family.”
However, his self-defence was not enough to convince his employer and, on Monday, ViuWell dismissed its CEO.
The company said in a statement: "We unequivocally condemn the behavior exhibited by Sam Johnson in a recent video widely circulated on social media.
"After investigating the matter and speaking to individuals involved, the VisuWell Board of Directors has chosen 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-tolerance policy for intolerance of any kind.
"Mr. Johnson’s actions contradicted the high standards we set for ourselves in promoting the health of those who use our platform."