Full access to Entrepreneur for $5

Papa John's Founder Tries to Clarify Eyebrow-Raising Comment Made During Interview

John Schnatter turned heads on social media after he told OANN that he was trying to "get rid of" the N-word in his vocabulary.

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Papa John's founder and ex-CEO John Schnatter attempted to clear up a controversial statement he made during an interview with right-wing outlet One America News Network (OANN). 

Angela Weiss/ACMA2012 | Getty Images

Last Friday, Schnatter sat down with the network and accused his former pizza chain of trying to portray him as a racist in an order to get him out. Papa John's cut ties with its founder in 2018 after he took part in a conference call with consultants from the marketing agency Laundry Service and used the N-word.

"I mean, it's so bizarre," Schnatter told OANN of the chain's decision to sever their relationship. "It's evil to do this to another human being. I don't think I ever wanted to see it. But I knew I wasn't. I've never been anything — in my nature to be a racist. And the tape, there's nothing in there that's racist."

Related: Coca-Cola Asks Its Workers to Be 'Less White' to Fight Racism

When asked why he was "targeted in the first place," Schnatter alleged that Casey Wasserman, the founder of Laundry Service's parent company Wasserman Media, was "jealous." Schnatter also took jabs at former Laundry Service CEO Jason Stein, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, and former Papa John's board members Mark Shapiro and Steve Ritchie.

"[All] the stars aligned perfectly with one motive, and that is to get rid of me," he said. "Now, whether that was a conspiracy, whether it was organized or not, we still don't know that."

But perhaps the most questionable moment came when OANN host Kara McKinney asked Schnatter to recall the time he saw headlines about the 2018 incident. After describing the "state of shock" he went through, the ex-CEO spoke about how he and his team were trying to move on. 

"It's just unbelievable. And I used to lay in bed just going 'How did they do this?' And we've had three goals for the last 20 months," Schnatter said. "To get rid of this N-word in my vocabulary and dictionary, and everything else, because it's just not true." 

Still, social media users weren't convinced that Schnatter had turned over a new leaf. Some questioned whether he had been using the N-word regularly prior to being publicly caught. 


"20..... months? It's taking 20 MONTHS for you to learn to not use the N word?" another asked

In a statement to the New York Post, Schnatter tried to walk back his comments by clarifying that he had been trying to reverse "false perceptions in the media" about what he had said on the call.

"On OANN, I tried to say, ‘Get rid of this N-word in (the) vocabulary and dictionary (of the news media), and everything else because it’s just not true,’ – reflecting my commitment to correct the false and malicious reporting by the news media about the conference call," he said.

Justin Chan

Written By

Entrepreneur Staff

Justin Chan is a news writer at Entrepreneur.com. Previously, he was a trending news editor at Verizon Media, where he covered entrepreneurship, lifestyle, pop culture, and tech. He was also an assistant web editor at Architectural Record, where he wrote on architecture, travel, and design. Chan has additionally written for Forbes, Reader's Digest, Time Out New YorkHuffPost, Complex, and Mic. He is a 2013 graduate of Columbia Journalism School, where he studied magazine journalism. Follow him on Twitter at @jchan1109.