Sam Johnson is the former CEO of VisuWell who is accused of harassing a teen boy who wore a dress to his prom in Tennessee in April 2021. Video of the incident involving the 46-year-old business leader went viral on TikTok, Twitter and Reddit. The video was recorded by the boy’s boyfriend at a hotel before the Franklin High School prom on Saturday, April 24. Johnson has denied any wrongdoing.
Johnson’s company, VisuWell, wrote on Twitter on April 26, “We unequivocally condemn the behavior exhibited by Sam Johnson in a recent video widely circulated on social media. After investigating the matter and speaking to individuals involved, the VisuWell BOD has chosen to terminate Mr. Johnson from his position as CEO, effective immediately. Gerry Andrady, our President and COO, will lead the company through this important time.”
The boyfriend, Jacob Geittmann, originally posted the video on TikTok and then on Twitter. He said his boyfriend, Dalton Stevens, wore the dress “for his senior prom to kind of break the stigma around men wearing dresses. He looked gorgeous, everybody loved it and nobody had a problem with it.” Geitmann added, “We went to this hotel close to where we live and we got a lot of good photos and we were there for about an hour and right as we were about to leave we standing outside in this little middle area with a bunch of buildings surrounding us. This man comes up and he’s about an inch away from my boyfriend and he says, ‘What are you wearing?’ And he’s like, ‘A dress, why?’ And he’s like, ‘Why are you wearing that? You shouldn’t be wearing that.’”
Geitmann said his boyfriend responded, “because I can and I want to.” According to Geitmann, Johnson then started “going on and on” and was “throwing insults at him … ‘You look disgusting, you look ridiculous, you look like an idiot. Men shouldn’t be wearing this.’ All this homophobic banter.”
Johnson told Newsweek the accusations are “entirely false,” saying it “wasn’t anything personal or involving a dress.” He told the news site it was “about obnoxious, loud behavior by this group of teens.” Johnson added he had asked the teens to “tone down the vulgarities around the families and children who were present.”
He told Newsweek, “We had just sat down for dinner at this restaurant that we frequent, and I was returning from the restroom when I was presented with their loud cursing. Making it about the dress was their idea and they edited out most of the exchange. I have no ill will towards anyone or their personal choices, so long as it does not harm me or my family.”
Johnson lives in Franklin, Tennessee, which is about 20 miles south of Nashville. The video has also gone viral on Reddit, in a /r/publicfreakout thread titled, “Man harasses LGBTQ+ teen in dress, leers and tries to follow him.”
Johnson and VisuWell did not immediately respond to requests for comment from Heavy. Johnson deleted his Twitter and Facebook accounts and VisuWell removed a “Meet Our CEO” page about Johnson from its website before announcing he was removed from his position.
VisuWell added on Twitter, “VisuWell’s culture emphasizes respect, kindness, and compassion, especially for those from traditionally marginalized communities, and we maintain a zero-tolerance policy for intolerance of any kind. Mr. Johnson’s actions contradicted the high standards we set for ourselves in promoting the health of those who use our platform. We share the concerns that so many have expressed on this matter and look forward to announcing concrete steps we are taking in support of the LGBTQ community in particular over the coming weeks.”
Here’s what you need to know about VisuWell CEO Sam Johnson and the viral video:
1. Johnson Can Be Seen in the Video Following Stevens, Laughing & Swinging His Arm at Geittmann’s Cell Phone Camera
The viral video begins with Johnson laughing as Stevens, wearing a red dress and a black mask, tells him to “f*** off.” Geittmann, who is recording with his cell phone, can be heard asking Johnson, “You think he looks gross?” and Johnson responds, “He does.” Stevens then begins to walk away and Johnson can be seen in the video following him.
Johnson starts to say, “You look like…” and the teen boy cuts him off and says, “I look like what? F*** off.” Johnson then says, “You look like an idiot,” and continues to walk toward Stevens, who tells him to, “Get the f*** away from me.” The video then shows Johnson swinging his arm toward Geittmann and hitting his phone. He also hits Stevens with his arm as Stevens tries to walk away. Johnson then tries to tell Geittmann to stop recording.
Johnson then smirks and shrugs his shoulders as other people can be heard in the background telling him to stop and leave teens alone. A woman can be heard saying, “stop, stop, stop, please.” A man says to Johnson, “It’s prom night. It’s a bunch of kids,” and the woman adds, “It’s a special night.”
The video ends with Stevens telling Johnson, “I’m sorry, I’m gorgeous.” He replies, “Are you?” with a smirk.
2. Geittmann Said Johnson Was Told to ‘Calm Down’ by Moms Who Were There & Was Then Kicked Out by Hotel Staff
In a follow-up video posted on TikTok, Geittmann described what can be seen in the video when Johnson swung at him. “He hits my phone out of my hand and it goes flying on the concrete. I go to grab it to start recording him again and he tries to swing at me again, which you can see in the original video when the camera goes out for a second, you can see him swinging, he tries to hit my phone out of my hand again but he misses and hits my boyfriend in the back,” Geittmann said.
“So that’s when all of the moms that were there they’re getting really involved now, telling Johnson, ‘You need to calm down, this is absolutely ridiculous, you are out of your mind,’” Geitmann said on TikTok. “And at this point the hotel staff had gotten word from inside about what was going on, so two of their ladies come out and they’re like, ‘OK guys what’s going on out here?’ He pretends like he has absolutely no clue what’s going on and he’s standing there like, ‘I’ve just been standing here the whole time, I don’t know what’s going on, I didn’t try to talk to them, I didn’t hit them, I didn’t try to smack his phone out of his hand.'” Geittmann said, “I’m like, ‘Dude I have a minute-long video of you harassing us you can’t just blatantly deny it like that.'”
Geittmann added, “The staff was really great about everything, they sent him back to the bar, because he was pretty obviously drunk, just cause they were calling the police and they didn’t want him to freak out anymore than he was. And as we were leaving, they told us that they were kicking him out and calling the police. So, I guess it’s a win.”
Geittmann did not say in the video what hotel they were at when the incident took place. It was also not immediately clear if police actually responded to the hotel and if an investigation into the incident took place or is ongoing. Geittmann wrote on TikTok, “We left before the police got there so we could make our dinner reservations but he was removed from the hotel.” Geittmann said Johnson was at the hotel for the bar/restaurant on the property and was not part of the prom group. Johnson told Newsweek he not kicked out of the hotel and he and his family left on their own.
3. Johnson Had Been the CEO of ValuWell, a Telemedicine Platform Company, Since 2017 After Working at Several Other Healthcare Companies
Johnson had been the CEO of ValuWell since 2017, according to his now-deleted LinkedIn profile. He is also on the board of directors. According to a press release from VisuWell, the company, formerly known as WeCounsel, has a mission “to provide elegant platforms that allow healthcare organizations of all types to deliver continuity of care and improved access to health services by equipping practitioners and their patients with a convenient and effective platform for virtual care delivery.” A cached page on the VisuWell website includes a “Meet Our CEO: Sam Johnson” section that reads:
Sam is a career-long healthcare technology innovator and problem solver with beginnings in the early days of electronic claims and scheduling systems. He was involved throughout the transformation of paper medical records to electronic (EHR), contributed innovations in the Patient Engagement and Population Health movements, and is now engaged in and challenging areas of virtual access, known as telemedicine. He is the founder of multiple healthcare tech startups and currently serves on the board of directors for several healthcare organizations as a growth and technology strategist.
On LinkedIn, Johnson wrote about himself, “I’m a brand creator, a growth catalyst, and source of encouragement and problem solving for startup and early stage companies struggling to differentiate themselves in a crowded marketplace. If you’re into making a difference in healthcare and people’s lives, let’s be in touch.”
Johnson was previously the founder and CEO of “patient outreach and messaging platform” from 2012 to 2017. He was a board member of a Nashville healthcare startup from 2010 to 2016, and was sales director at a Franklin-based healthcare company from 2005 to 2012. He previously worked as a regional sales manager at a healthcare systems company in North Carolina from 2002 to 2005 and has other healthcare-related sales jobs dating back to 1996.
Johnson was quoted in an April 6, 2021, press release about the University Hospitals system in Cleveland, Ohio, choosing VisuWell as its telehealth provider. Johnson and his company said the pandemic has increased the need for hospitals to have telehealth systems. He said in a statement, “At Visuwell, we partner with organizations to develop tailored virtual care strategies including telemedicine solutions to address healthcare’s biggest challenges, while providing them with a robust feature set and configurable options to help them successfully deliver virtual care for their patients. We are excited to work with an innovative organization like UH to expand their virtual care footprint and transform the telemedicine experience for providers and patients.”
4. Johnson Deleted His Twitter Account, Which Included Tweets Attacking COVID-19 ‘Mask Theater’
Johnson deleted his Twitter account, @SJohnsonTN, after the video began to go viral on social media on April 25. A cached version of the account shows some of his tweets. On February 21, 2021, Johnson tweeted, “The mask theater needs to go bye-bye.” Johnson’s Twitter bio read, “I’ll never know you electronically nor do I want to. – pronouns: thee/thou/thine 😂”
Johnson also recently tweeted his support for Tennessee Governor Bill Lee after he signed a constitutional carry bill, writing, “Atta boy, @GovBillLee !!” On March 25, Johnson tweeted, “Look, the 2nd amendment is not about enabling criminals, it’s about a balance of power between the people and a potential enemy. If you are equating our right to bear arms with criminal activity, you are simply thinking too small. How about we #banstupidpeople instead.”
On January 8, after Twitter banned former President Donald Trump from its platform, Johnson tweeted, “I don’t care what your opinion is, America, you just screwed up!” He had previously tweeted about pro-Trump recount efforts in Georgia, writing on December 30, 2020, “Breaking news: GA state legislature has just passed a motion to require Fulton County to release all mail-in ballots cast for the Nov 3rd election for 3rd party inspection @realDonaldTrump @JoeBiden.”
He tweeted on April 9, “What clowns run the @usnavy social account?? There’s a mask on an eagle and on a dude in the middle of the ocean 😂” In March 2021, he tweeted to the TSA, “You can relax about ‘health’ and focus on weapons and such. We don’t care about Covid theater. Not at all.”
Johnson also liked a tweet from Republican Colorado Representative Lauren Boebert that said, “President Trump is right, biological males are competing in and destroying women’s sports. How is this even a debate.” Another liked tweet said, “This is outrageous. He’s a 9-year-old kid who should be entirely heedless of sexual inclinations. That he’s convinced he’s gay is not a sign of a mature self-awareness but rather a symptom of negligent, if not abusive parenting.”
Johnson, a native of Gadsden, Alabama, according to Venture Nashville, is married and has four children, according to social media and public records viewed by Heavy. His wife, a local business owner and real estate agent, has set her Twitter account to private. Hours after the pro-Trump U.S. Capitol rally and riot on January 6, Johnson’s wife tweeted, “Call me crazy, but I still don’t think the Fat Lady has sung yet. #StopTheSteaI2020 #maga @realDonaldTrump @SidneyPowell1 @LLinWood @GenFlynn.”
5. VisuWell Faced Calls on Social Media for Johnson to Be Ousted From His CEO Position
Before announcing Johnson had been removed from his position, VisuWell was facing calls on social media for the company to speak out about Johnson and to cut ties with their CEO. Geittmann tweeted the video at VisuWell and wrote, “you gonna address this publicly? not a good look!” Former Big Brother houseguest Rachel Swindler was one of the first to call out Johnson and the company, tweeting the video and adding, “Hey @VisuWell, do you know you employ a homophobic named @SJohnsonTN? That doesn’t look too good for your company in 2021. Boost this twitter. He harassed and threw homophobic slurs at a young teenage boy wearing a dress.”
The Tennessee Holler, a progressive-leaning local news website, tweeted, “Looks like @sjohnsontn of @VisuWell (who has hopped in our mentions many times to be homophobic but has now deleted his account) appears to have now done some real-life homophobia to some young men at a prom in Nashville.”
Political scientist and American Enterprise Institute scholar Norman Ornstein tweeted, “Hey, clients of @VisuWell, are you cool getting services from a company with a CEO like this?”
Screenwriter, director and TV producer Steven DeKnight tweeted, “Hey, @VisuWell. Is this your CEO Sam Johnson? He either needs to be ejected immediately or you need to make a statement saying you condone this kind of hateful, homophobic behavior. What’s it going to be?”