A top executive with Estée Lauder is being forced out effective this week after posting a racist meme on social media, the company announced Monday.
John Demsey, executive group president of the cosmetics group based in New York City, “must leave the company” this week after sharing material on his Instagram account that does not “reflect the values of The Estée Lauder Companies,” a statement posted to the company’s website said.
The statement said the post is “damaging to our efforts to drive inclusivity both inside and outside our walls” and does not “reflect the judgment we expect of our leaders.”
“Inclusion, diversity and equity are core to our company’s values and priorities globally. Furthermore, over the past two years, 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,” the statement said.
The statement was shared with employees and included the names William P. Lauder, executive chairman, and Fabrizio Freda, president and chief executive officer.
The post in question was a Sesame Street themed meme about Covid-19 that used a racial slur, a company spokesperson confirmed Monday. It has been deleted from Demsey’s Instagram account.
The spokesperson also said in a statement: “John was not fired, he was told he had to leave the company and is retiring this week.”
Demsey could not be immediately reached for comment Monday.
He posted an apology Saturday on his Instagram.
“I am terribly sorry and deeply ashamed that I hurt so many people when I made the horrible mistake of carelessly reposting a racist meme without reading it beforehand. There are not enough words to express my remorse and sorrow,” the post said.
“Not only did I hurt many people whom I respect, the terrible mistake that I made has undermined everything I have been working for since I began my career 31 years ago. The meme is the furthest thing from what I stand for and I should have never reposted it,” Demsey wrote.
“I am so sorry that I left down the Company that I have dedicated my life’s work to as well as its employees, artists, friends, and colleagues. 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.”
Austin Mullen contributed.