The Profit star Marcus Lemonis has apologized—to his employees, to viewers of his CNBC show, and to people he says he “disrespected”—after receiving death threats and criticism for his thoughts about Donald Trump’s response to violence and protests in Charlottesville.
This began when Marcus appeared via phone on CNBC’s Power Lunch last Wednesday. During the interview, Marcus said this:
“There’s no doubt that there is probably not many consumers in this country today that are in favor of what has been said in the last couple days, and if they are, quite frankly, don’t shop at my business.”
That has, in this age of instant outrage and clickbait, quickly circulated without context, and sometimes with innacurate information. One conservative web site, Gateway Pundit, posted a story with the headline, “Major NASCAR Sponsor Tells Trump Fans To Take Their Business Elsewhere.” Similar headlines appeared elsewhere.
But on CNBC and in the days after, Marcus never targeted to Trump supporters, and instead only repeatedly said that he was objecting to hatred and violence.
In the initial interview, Marcus was referring to Donald Trump’s comments equivocating white supremacists and Nazis with the protesters who opposed them. Marcus’s appearance included some praise for Donald Trump’s ideas, but also criticism of Trump’s behavior and statements:
“There’s no doubt that Trump’s ideas around reform and taxes—I think everybody’s in favor of, deregulating, things of that nature. But when you start to get into attacking people personally or questioning the humanity, or questioning what this country stands for, I think that discussion has to change.”
But Marcus started by talking more broadly about the responsibility CEOs have to their companies:
“This notion that the economy’s being driven solely by Trump is laughable to me. There’s good fundamentals that are happening with these companies. I htink the challenge that we have right now, particularly as CEOs, is our job is to be stewards of our business. And we are entitled to a personal opinion and we are entitled to voice that, but we need to be careful—and I encourage a lot of these CEOs to be careful—in really voicing an opinion that represents their business or their shareholders.
I, of course, along with the other CEOs, are horrified by what we’re hearing and seeing from this administration, but as the CEO of Camping World it’s important to recognize—or the CEO of any company—that we speak for ourselves as individuals on public policy, we speak for our companies as it relates to policy that affects our business.”
He added, “I’m concerned about certain CEOs dancing on the fence, fearing retaliation or fearing something. It’s scary right now.”
Marcus responds in a Facebook video
On Monday, Marcus broadcast on Facebook live to discuss reaction to his comments. He said, in part:
“First of all, nobody knows who I voted for. […]
What I said last week on-air, and you can go watch the clip, is that if you are okay with what happened in Charlottesville—both what has been said, or what was done—then I’m not okay with it. And, at the end of the day, my message is really about the amount of hate and violence that’s happening in this country. It has nothing to do with who voted for who, or who they’re supported by.
[…] What is part of my dialogue, and what I stand behind—to my own peril—is that if you are okay with violence, and you are okay with hatred, and you are okay with bigotry, I’m not okay with it. And I know that in my quote, I said I Know that many consumers in this country are not okay with what’s happening.
A number of my friends are Trump supporters; a number of my friends are Democrats. And at the end of the day, they aren’t in favor of it either. So I think the message should be clear: If you are okay with what happened in Charlottesville, or what was said, it’s not okay.
I’m asking people to come together, and I’ve received death threats, terrible e-mails, you name it. And I’m okay taking it, because I really believe that nobody is in favor of hatred.
[…] For the last time, regardless of what the consequences are to me, I am not in favor of violence and I am not in favor of hatred, and that is my position. And I’m not going to change my position, no matter how beat up I get.
At the end of the day, a number of articles have been written that says If you are a Trump supporter, don’t come to my business. Never said that. If you voted for Trump, don’t come to business. Never said that. I don’t care who you voted for. I don’t care what your political party is. But I do care if you’re condoning violence or condoning hatred. That does affect me.”
That, however, wasn’t clear enough to some people.
An apology to employees and others, but not racists or bigots
This morning, Marcus released a long statement, that starts with his childhood, and which you can read below. But it said, in part,
“As I continued over the last several months to read, listen and observe I noticed that my conviction was weakening. I felt like I needed to just accept the way things are and move on. Which felt like a mistake.
[…] The mistake I made in the last week was not being clear.
Do I wish that there was more speed of clarity and conviction around the violence? Yes
Do I think that hate and violence has taken over everywhere, yes?
Do I think one person is to blame ? No
Do I think that there are two sides to every story? Yes
While I stand strong on my position that violence, hate, bigotry is unacceptable from anyone regardless of what side you are on and that all of us need to be accountable, only I am accountable for my actions.
Last week I gave my opinion on what had happened. I made the mistake of letting my fear and emotion talk about subjects that I shouldn’t have. As the CEO of a business, I am responsible to take care of the people that work there. I opened my mouth and put them in harms way. While I know, that the headline published was taken out of context and I have to live with that. there should have never been a headline and I gave a chance to live.
My apology is sincere. It is to my employees who have been forced to deal with this. I am nothing without you. I am here to serve, guide and protect you. I will work harder. Please forgive me. Please don’t punish them.
I apologize to anyone who has supported their cause , their political preference, their candidate, their beliefs. I was Not raised this way and have always been taught to respect everyone. This is a free county and my fears shouldn’t be projected on anyone. I am asking for your forgiveness. I should have not disrespected that and will not again.
I apologize to the people who have followed my show for years and have said they have learned so much and are inspired, who now say that have been let down and will never trust me again.
I DO NOT apologize to anyone who is in favor or hate, violence, bigotry or racism. And I will do my part to help eliminate it from both sides. One way I do that is by being an example. You are the reason I made this mistake. You took my common sense away and purpose. I will not let you beat me or beat me down.
I am a man of conviction. Most of the time it’s what people like about me. In this case it’s quite the opposite.
I have not written this because I worry about what it means to me financially, because that’s normally the response I hear when I say I’m sorry.”