Papa John’s founder cleared of racial bias; unfair ‘inaccurate’ media crucified him, says ex-FBI director

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On Monday a former FBI director who’d worked in the Clinton and Bush administrations released a report disputing the claim by Papa Johns’ critics, particularly in the media, that the company’s founder, John Schnatter, is some sort of racist.

After Schnatter resigned from Papa Johns’ board of directors in July of 2018, he hired former FBI Director Louis Freeh to investigate the controversies that had led to the smear campaign against him and his eventual public downfall.

The first controversy involved him slamming the NFL in October of 2017 for hurting the company’s bottom line. This controversy led to him stepping down as CEO.

The second controversy involved him using the n-word in July of 2018 during a “role-playing exercise.” This controversy led him to resign from the company’s board of directors.

According to Freeh’s investigation, despite these controversies, the evidence doesn’t point to Schnatter being a racist.

“By way of conclusion and as set forth in detail below, a thorough examination … found that the public comments by Mr. Schnatter were neither intended nor can reasonably be interpreted to reflect any racial bias, prejudice, or disrespect for African Americans or people of color,” the report reads.

“Moreover, the … background investigation of Mr. Schnatter, and specifically the personal experiences and reputation he currently has with very prominent African Americans and other people of color, completely validates and corroborates the separate finding that Mr. Schnatter had no prejudicial intent or racial animus when he made the public comments at issue.”

View the full report below:

Louis Freeh report on Papa … by V Saxena

Freeh began by covering the first controversy. During a 2017 board meeting, Schnatter expressed his disappointment with the NFL and its leaders for not handling the national anthem protests correctly.

The media promptly pounced on the comments by portraying them as a criticism of the NFL players themselves, which they suggested made Schnatter a racist. But according to Freeh’s investigation, this was a false narrative.

“Contrary to the clearly inaccurate reporting, as can be seen from the transcript itself, Mr. Schnatter never took issue with the players’ protest, and in fact never even mentioned the players or their race as part of the problem. Rather, he said the problem fell squarely in the lap of ‘NFL leadership,” Freeh wrote.

He then moved on to the elephant in the room, the infamous 2018 conference call with a marketing agency during which Schnatter had innocuously used the n-word to make a point.

When the agency asked him how he intends to distance himself from racist groups like the Ku Klux Klan, he responded by noting that even though “Colonel Sanders called blacks n*****s,” he never faced the same grade of backlash that Schnatter was being hit with over the remarks he’d made about the NFL.

This innocuous comparison was the beginning of the end for him thanks again, in part, to false reporting by the media.

“After a review of the discussion on the phone conference, the record demonstrates that Mr. Schnatter had an open and frank discussion about race and racial issues in response to questions posed by others on the call,” Freeh wrote.

“Mr. Schnatter’s comments came as part of a diversity sensitivity training call in which he was stressing his disdain for racism and any prejudicial behavior. At no time during the call did Mr. Schnatter express any beliefs that could be described as bigoted or intolerant.”

Furthermore, Freeh wrote, Schnatter had been quoting a “third party” — KFC’s racist founder, Colonel Sanders — when he’d used the n-word.

“Most importantly, it cannot be fairly said that Mr. Schnatter evidenced any intent to use the ‘n-word’ in any way or in reference to any person, or to describe how he thought of African Americans, or referenced people of color himself. Although it was ill-advised for Mr. Schnatter to reference the use of the word, he quoted the word in order to point out a double standard he thought was being applied against him,” the report continues.

A double standard, the report notes, best exemplified by the behavior of media-beloved Democrats like New York Gov. Chris Cuomo, who faced far less backlash, particularly from the media, after he used the n-word in a quote during a radio show interview last year.

“Although the situations were almost identical in that both Governor Cuomo and Mr. Schnatter had quoted the word as part of a discussion on race, the context in which Mr. Schnatter used the word was mischaracterized or not accurately reported in media reports,” Freeh wrote.

The overarching point of the report appears to be that Schnatter was purposefully tarred and feather by a biased media that was more interested in destroying him than in reporting the objective truth.

Whether or not these findings will allow Schnatter to make a comeback remains unclear, though words he uttered in 2019 do seem to hold more weight: “The day of reckoning will come.”

Perhaps that day is today?

Vivek Saxena

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