sam johnson

After a video of a man harassing a Franklin teen went viral, that man is out of his job as CEO of a Franklin-based telehealth company — and the teen has seen an outpouring of support on social media. 

In the video, a man, identified as Sam Johnson, is seen engaging in a sometimes heated conversation with 18-year-old Dalton Stevens, a Franklin High School senior who was wearing a red prom gown. Johnson is a Franklin resident and now the former CEO of VisuWell, which rebranded from WeCounsel a few years ago. He previously led patient engagement company Relatient.

The two are seen in the outdoor common area of the Harpeth Hotel along with other students who were taking photos prior to attending FHS' prom on Saturday night. The person filming the encounter was 19-year-old Jacob Geitmann, who was attending the FHS prom with Stevens.

The tense exchanges shows the teens arguing with Johnson, who can be heard saying that Stevens looks like an "idiot" in the dress, at which point the teens tell Johnson off.

Geittmann initially posted the video on Twitter and, soon after, posted two TikTok videos explaining what happened before and after he began filming. In those videos, Geittmann alleges that Johnson approached the group of teens and began harassing Stevens before knocking Geittmann's phone out of his hand.

Johnson does appear to try and knock Geittmann's phone out of his hand in the video. 

Geittmann said that Johnson appeared to be drunk and was told to leave by several adults who were with the group of teens before the hotel staff intervened, at which point Johnson allegedly returned to the hotel's bar.

The post took off on Sunday when it was viewed thousands of times. Just after midnight on Monday morning, the encounter was retweeted by comedian Kathy Griffin, who has 2.1 million Twitter followers.

The story was also picked up by larger online publications as Heavy.comRTLGBTQ Nation and Newsweek, as well as progressive outlet Tennessee Holler.

Stevens told NBC News that he chose to wear the red gown because "clothing is really genderless," with the teens calling Johnson's words and actions "homophobic."

The Harpeth Hotel issued a statement through Crowepr, a public relations company, on Monday.

"Our goal is ensure that all guests and visitors feel welcome and comfortable at The Harpeth," General Manager Justin Foster said in an email. "We were disheartened by the events that occurred on property this past weekend and are grateful that our staff quickly responded and diffused the situation. We look forward to continuing creating positive experiences on property." 

Franklin Police Department Public Information Officer Charlie Warner confirmed in an email on Monday that officers were dispatched to the hotel at 6:55 p.m. on Saturday after the hotel reported "an unwanted person."

Warner said that officers spoke with hotel staff and spoke with Johnson, who denied that he had any involvement with the teens. FPD told Johnson that the hotel management wanted him to leave the property and he did without incident.

As of Monday afternoon, no criminal complaint and no charges have been filed in the incident.

Williamson County Schools Communication Director Carol Birdsong responded to a request for comment on Monday, stating that while the incident did not take place on WCS property, "Williamson County Schools continues to encourage our students, staff and community members to treat each other with dignity and respect at all times."

On Monday afternoon, VisuWell announced Johnson’s termination in a four-part tweet, as well as promising the future announcement of “concrete steps” the company will take “in support of the LGBTQ community in particular over the coming weeks.”

“We unequivocally condemn the behavior exhibited by Sam Johnson in a recent video widely circulated on social media,” VisuWell said in the tweet thread. “After investigating the matter and speaking to individuals involved, the VisuWell BOD has chosen to terminate Mr. Johnson from his position as CEO, effective immediately. Gerry Andrady, our President and COO, will lead the company through this important time.”

“VisuWell’s culture emphasizes respect, kindness and compassion, especially for those from traditionally marginalized communities, and we maintain a zero-tolerance policy for intolerance of any kind,” the thread continued. “Mr. Johnson’s actions contradicted the high standards we set for ourselves in promoting the health of those who use our platform.”

The Home Page reached out directly to both Stevens and Geitmann, but as of Monday night neither party had returned a request for comment.

Johnson declined to issue a statement on Monday night, but this story will be updated if any of the parties choose to issue any statement or comment in the future.

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