NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — A former Franklin CEO of a health care company filed suit in federal court this week against comedian Kathy Griffin, alleging she doxed him on Twitter and caused him to lose his job.
The suit comes as a result of Samuel Johnson losing his job with VisuWell in 2021 hours after Griffin posted a tweet about his conduct toward a Franklin High School student inside the Harpeth Hotel in downtown Franklin. The viral video — which originally hit TikTok — described an interaction between Johnson and then-student Dalton Stevens, who was wearing a red prom dress. Behind the camera is Stevens boyfriend, Jacob Geittmann, who captured a portion of the incident.
In the video, Stevens told Johnson and said "I chose what to wear, so you can f— off."
Johnson responded by shrugging and smiling and telling Stevens, "You look like an idiot."
While the video focused on Johnson, viewers can hear Stevens call himself gorgeous.
"Are you?" Johnson replied.
I have filed a federal lawsuit against @kathygriffin in my struggle to stand up against the woke social mob that wants to strip us of our livelihoods and careers. We will fight!— Sam Johnson (@SJohnsonTN) April 27, 2022
WHAT JOHNSON ALLEGES HAPPENED
Johnson said in the lawsuit he was meeting family for dinner at the Harpeth Hotel and was the first to arrive in his group.
He sat down with a man from California while he waited and was interrupted by a group of teenagers, the suit stated.
"During that conversation, the two men were interrupted several times by loud yelling, cursing and invasive noise in the lobby and restaurant area. The vulgarities were emanating from a group of approximately 40 to 50 teenagers dressed for prom, entering the hotel lobby and area where the two men were seated," the suit stated. "Mr. Johnson did not know any of the teenagers. The teenagers were complete strangers to Mr. Johnson. The noise and vulgarities continued for approximately 45 to 50 minutes as the group of teenagers moved freely around the hotel, taking photos with different backdrops in the facility."
He said the group was "stimulating sex acts" and deemed it the worst he had ever seen.
During dinner with his family, Johnson said he had to go out through the courtyard to use the restroom but ignored the teens. Because Johnson asked a parent for the teens to "tone it down," he alleged Geittmann and Stevens instigated a confrontation and recorded him.
"During the entirety of the April 24 incident, Mr. Johnson never expressed any anger, raised his voice or threatened the prom group in any way, even though the promgoers emotions were visible and extreme," the lawsuit stated.
WHAT HAPPENED AFTER THE HARPETH HOTEL
Two days after Johnson met his family for dinner, the incident started escalating online.
Local news outlets started writing about the video from the original TikTok, which is now deleted.
A Twitter account — named Fifty Shades of Whey, which identifies as a freelance journalist — posted the video on Twitter racking up 1.7 million views, 7,700 retweets and 13,800 likes.
Griffin picked up on the account and retweeted that to her following, naming Johnson, VisuWell and Johnson's wife, Jill, in the tweet. She noted the pair lived in Franklin. That retweet garnered 5,808 retweets and 9,900 likes among her fans.
"It seems like he's dying to be online famous," she wrote.
Post 2/4: 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 (@VisuWell) April 26, 2021
"VisuWell officially terminated Mr. Johnson’s employment contract on April 26, 2021. Such termination constituted, under the terms of the employment contract, a breach of contract," the lawsuit stated. "VisuWell ceased all employment relations with Mr. Johnson on or about April 26, 2021. But for Ms. Griffin’s first tweet on April 26, 2021, the Video Clip and the April 24 Incident would not have gone viral on the internet. The Video Clip and the April 24 Incident would have been quickly forgotten and would not have been used by VisuWell as a basis to terminate Mr. Johnson’s employment contract."
Johnson said that VisuWell approached him prior to Griffin's tweet, and the company said they had no plans to terminate him. He said the company did no investigation into the incident at the hotel before his firing, the lawsuit said.
Per the suit, Johnson is asking for a jury trial, claiming Griffin owes him substantial compensatory damages and caused emotional distress.
"Because of Ms. Griffin’s conduct, Mr. and Mrs. Johnson actually felt terrorized, frightened, intimidated, threatened, harassed and molested," the suit stated.
Additionally, Johnson sued University Hospitals Health System. That case in federal court is frozen until the summer when a federal judge is waiting on arbitration before the case proceeds.