A FORMER FBI chief has cleared Papa John's founder John Schnatter of racial bias following his investigation into public comments made by the disgraced pizza boss in 2018.
Louis Freeh, who served as director of the federal agency from 1993 to 2001, determined on Tuesday that Schnatter's comments couldn't reasonably "reflect any racial bias, prejudice, or disrespect for African Americans or people of color."
The former FBI director added in his report that his firm's background investigation of the CEO looked into Schnatter's personal experiences and his relationships with prominent black people and other people of color.
Freeh wrote that his findings "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."
He noted that interviews with several notable black American civil rights, business, and religious figures all reaffirmed that Schnatter "never expressed any racial bias, prejudice, or discrimination," and "always appreciated people regardless of their race or ethnicity."
Freeh's investigation also reviewed the transcript of the company earnings call on November 1, 2017, in which Schnatter derided NFL players taking a knee in protest against police brutality during games.
"The NFL is hurting, and more importantly by not resolving the current debacle to the player and owner’s satisfaction, NFL leadership has hurt Papa John’s shareholders," Schatter said at the time, according to the report.
"This should have been nipped in the bud a year and a half ago. Like many sponsors, we are in contact with NFL, and once the issue’s resolved between the players and the owners, we are optimistic that the NFL’s best years are ahead."
Freeh also reviewed the transcript of a phone conference between Schnatter and ad firm Laundry Service, during which the pizza boss was told the call would focus on discussing race and diversity as a result of media reports that his earlier comments were racially insensitive.
But as the call was winding down, Schatter said: "what bothers me is Colonel Sanders called blacks, n—–s. I’m like, I never used that word. And they get away with it. And we use the word “debacle” and we get framed in the same genre."
Freeh claims the call transcript shows that Schnatter didn't use the n-word.
"The comments were not made in the context as to be prejudicial, but rather to demonstrate his opposition to racism and frustration with his attitude toward race being so misconstrued during the controversy of his comments on the NFL," the former intelligence chief wrote.
In a statement on Tuesday, Schnatter said that Freeh's report corroborates that his May 2018 comments were "mischaracterized by the media" to hurt his reputation.
He called his firing a "malicious set up" by Laundry Service executives and "certain board members of Papa John's International."
Freeh argued overall that facts and fairness were overtaken by Schnatter's "sensationalized mischaracterization in the mainstream and social media."
"The disparity between those comments, and the distorted way some media have characterized and misstated them, makes it clear that Mr. Schnatter has been unfairly treated, with his good reputation for treating everyone without prejudice unjustly challenged."
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