Verizon opened an internal investigation on Thursday after discovering that a man wore company gear while marching at the deadly white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, last weekend.
CEO Lowell McAdam will personally oversee the probe, he said in a companywide email that marks his first public comments on the controversy.
“This has no place in our country, nor in our company,” McAdam wrote.
“That’s why it’s distressing to learn that a man who marched with members of neo-Nazi groups and the KKK was wearing Verizon gear,” he added. “We are actively investigating this situation and I am personally involved in getting to the bottom of this.”
Verizon declined to share the photo or video that showed the marcher, and neither turned up in a search of wire service images and social media networks.
The protest became a political flashpoint this week after President Donald Trump initially refused to condemn, then later defended, the white nationalist demonstrators and said some “very fine people” had been among them. One rally attendee is accused of killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer by driving his car into a crowd of counterprotesters.
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McAdam did not specifically call out Trump in his short statement. The 63-year-old has remained mostly silent on the presidency, although he warned last October that Trump would be “unpredictable” and said the election made him “want to put my head through the wall.” He gave two $2,700 donations to the presidential campaign of 2016 Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, according to data collected by the Center for Responsive Politics. He has contributed regularly to Democrats and Republicans running for Congress.
The president came under blistering criticism from major corporate allies this week. The White House disbanded two advisory councils on Wednesday after members began quitting en masse in protest of Trump. Together, they had been stacked with more than two dozen chief executives from companies including Walmart, Under Armour and JPMorgan Chase.
In a separate crackdown against white supremacists, tech companies began shuttering services to people involved in the so-called “Unite the Right” rally. Alphabet Inc.’s Google and GoDaddy banned The Daily Stormer, a prominent neo-Nazi website, from their hosting services. Web security provider CloudFlare also dropped the site. PayPal and Apple cut off their payment services to suspected white supremacists.
Some smaller companies, including a hot dog shop in Berkeley, California, moved quickly to terminate employees who participated in the march.
Verizon, however, appears to be the first major corporation investigating a potential marcher in its ranks. The company has more than 163,400 employees worldwide.
“The leadership team and I cannot be more committed to the values of diversity and inclusion,” McAdam wrote. “And we will continue to live those values through our actions.”
Verizon’s announcement comes shortly after members of the far-right criticized Google for firing James Damore, an engineer who wrote a memo railing against the value of workplace diversity. The company was forced to cancel a town hall on gender diversity ― Damore specifically called out women for being biologically unsuited for the same jobs as him ― amid threats from right-wing commentators.
Read McAdam’s full memo below:
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