(WNCN) — The former CEO and founder of pizza chain Papa John’s says he has been working on not using racist language for the past 20 months.
John Schnatter, the Papa John’s founder who in 2018 stepped down for using the N-word during a conference call said in an interview with One America News Network that he is “not a racist” and that the pizza chain’s board has painted him in that manner.
“We’ve had three goals for the last 20 months,” Schnatter said in the interview. “To 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.”
Schnatter later told TMZ that what he meant to say was that he had spent 20 months trying to stop the media from linking him to the N-word.
According to Forbes Magazine, Schnatter used the N-word during a media training exercise. When asked how he would distance himself from racist groups, Schnatter reportedly complained that Colonel Sanders never faced a backlash for using the same word.
Schnatter apologized for using the word, but said it was taken out of context and that he didn’t use it as an epithet. He resigned as chairman after the report was published, but subsequently called the decision a “mistake.”
Schnatter told the Associated Press back in 2018 that the pizza chain does well with him as its public face, and that it was a mistake for the company to scrub him from its marketing materials after he acknowledged using a racial slur.
“My persona resonates with the consumer because it’s authentic, it’s genuine and it’s the truth,” Schnatter said in a phone interview in August 2018.