Estée Lauder fires John Demsey for racist Instagram meme

John Demsey, chairman of Estee Lauder Cos., speaks during the World Retail Congress in Barcelona, ​​Spain, Friday, May 8, 2009.

Mike Laburu | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Cosmetics company Estee Lauder said on Monday it had kicked out executive John Demsey, days after he admitted posting a racist meme on a personal social media account.

The announcement was made in a letter that was shared with its employees around the world.

Demsey, 65, has faced backlash for an Instagram post containing the N-word and a joke about Covid-19, which is no longer on his feed. He was first suspended without pay. Demsey, who oversaw cosmetics brands such as Clinique, later apologized in another post.

“I’m so sorry and deeply ashamed that I hurt so many people when I made the horrible mistake of carelessly flagging a racist meme without reading it first,” Demsey said.

A company representative said he was told to leave the company and agreed to retire.

Estee Lauder’s decision is part of an effort to become more inclusive and equitable over the past two years, according to the letter. “Together, we are making progress on our commitments to our employees, our partners and our consumers.”

Shares of the company were down about 1.8% at $294.94 late Monday morning amid a sell-off in the market.

The Wall Street Journal first reported Demsey’s exit.

Clarification: This story has been updated to indicate that Demsey has agreed to retire.

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