A top executive for Estée Lauder was fired on Monday after he posted a Sesame Street meme on social media that used a racial slur and mocked COVID-19.
The Wall Street Journal first reported Estée Lauder Senior Executive John Demsey–who oversees brands like MAC and Clinique and had been with the cosmetic company for more than three decades–was suspended without pay for his racist post.
Executive Chairman William Lauder and CEO Fabrizio Freda, announced Demsey was leaving his position with Estée Lauder, effective immediately.
The company's statement read:
“Today, John Demsey, Executive Group President, The Estée Lauder Companies, was informed he must leave the company, effective this week."
The company added Demsey's posts “have caused widespread offense, are damaging to our efforts to drive inclusivity both inside and outside our walls, and do not reflect the judgment we expect of our leaders.”
Demsey's now-deleted post featured a fake Little Golden Book cover in which Sesame Street character Big Bird wore a mask and stood next to Mr. Snuffleupagus–who was in bed with an apparent fever.
Snuffleupagus was referred to by the n-word in the fake book's title, which said the character had "done got the 'rona at a Chingy concert," referring to the coronavirus.
A screenshot of Demsey's removed post was shared by the Instagram account, @esteelaundry.
Warning: use of n-word.
Demsey claimed he posted the meme “without reading it beforehand” and said he was “terribly sorry and deeply ashamed.”
He reportedly added:
“The meme is the furthest thing from what I stand for and I should have never reposted it."
"I hope that in time people will judge me, not for this awful mistake, but for my lifetime of words and actions, which demonstrate my respect for all people.”
Demsey's apology, however, failed to resonate with Estée Lauder.
Social media users also refused to believe he didn't initially recognize the racist meme before posting it.
Estée Lauder's announcement added:
"Inclusion, diversity and equity are core to our company's values and priorities globally. Furthermore, over the past two year, we have worked together as an organization to advance our approach to racial equity and have taken a hard look at where we can and should do better."
"Together we are making progress against our commitments to our employees, our partners, and consumers."
They concluded the statement with:
"Our employees, and especially our senior leaders, are accountable to continue driving our progress and to respect the values of this company for the long term."