Papa John founder John Schnatter hasn’t been CEO of his company for three years now, but that hasn’t stopped him from sparking controversy.
In an interview on One America News, a far-right cable channel self-described as one of the “greatest supporters” of Donald Trump, Schnatter denied the accusations that he’s a racist. Schnatter was outed as CEO from his company in 2018 after he made controversial comments regarding national anthem protests by NFL players, and later that same year he was recorded using the n-word during an internal sensitivity-training conference call.
Schnatter has accused others of attempting to conspire against him to force him out of the CEO role, and as he explained in his OAN interview he believes they “painted” him as a racist.
“They know he’s not a racist,” he said of himself. “I used to just lay in bed and go, ‘How did they do this?’ And we’ve had three goals for the last twenty months; Get rid of this n-word in my vocabulary and dictionary, and everything else because it’s just not true. Figure out how they did this and get on with my life.”
Immediately after, he went on to say that he has “no history of racism.”
His appearance on the show comes just a week after the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Kentucky ordered a complaint filed by Schnatter be unsealed, with excerpts alleging that an ad firm hired by the company “conspired to directly and willfully harm their image and brand.” Associated Press reports that Schnatter claims he criticized a “well-known public figure” for saying the n-word, and that he himself had “never used that word.”
The complaint alleges that a hot-mic conversation between board members was captured after Schnatter left a call, with some criticizing his recent behavior at the time. "The chilling details from this taped conversation make clear the intent of Laundry Service to destroy my reputation, as well as the Papa John’s brand, harming our employees and franchisees in the process," said Schnatter in a statement. "It’s time for Laundry Service to be held accountable, and for Papa John’s to correct the record and apologize to me for validating the media frenzy that led to my forced departure as the company Chairman."